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ABC stores are a staple in Hawaii, providing convenient locations to pick up snacks, souvenirs, and other essentials for visitors and locals alike. But despite their popularity across the islands, many people don’t know the history behind these popular stores.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: ABC stores in Hawaii are owned by the Honolulu-based ABC Stores Inc., a privately held local business.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the full story behind ABC stores in Hawaii—their origins, current operations, and future outlook. We’ll cover key details like the company’s founding and leadership over the years, store count and locations, product selection and pricing strategy, and how ABC stores fit into Hawaii’s retail landscape.

The Origins and History of ABC Stores in Hawaii

Founding of ABC Stores Inc. in 1964

The first ABC Store opened in 1964 on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki with the goal of providing Hawaii visitors with affordable souvenirs, snacks, and sundries. The store was founded by Sidney Kosasa, an entrepreneur seeking new business opportunities in the growing Hawaii tourism industry.

Within a few short years, ABC Stores became a household name in Hawaii.

Rapid expansion in the 1960s-1980s under Sid and George Kosasa

Under the leadership of Sidney Kosasa and his son George Kosasa, ABC Stores experienced rapid expansion across the Hawaiian Islands between the 1960s-1980s. New stores seemed to pop up every month during peak growth. By the late 1980s, there were nearly 80 ABC store locations in Hawaii.

Key to the company’s success was their ability to adapt merchandise and marketing to the changing trends and needs over the decades – from the hippie culture of the 1960s to the rise of Japanese tourism in the 1980s.

The Kosasas had keen business instincts for staying relevant in Hawaii’s visitor industry.

New leadership and steady growth from 1990s-present

After the passing of company pioneers Sid and George Kosasa in the early 1990s, leadership transferred to Sid’s daughter Susan Kosasa and other family members. They upheld the company’s reputation for quality service and on-trend merchandise built over previous decades.

Since the 1990s, ABC Stores has experienced steady expansion, even during economic downturns affecting Hawaii tourism at different points. As of 2023 the company operates over 75 stores statewide, offering consistent convenience to locals and visitors alike.

ABC Stores Inc. Company Facts and Overview

ABC Stores is a hugely popular locally owned retail chain based right here in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii. With over 500 convenience stores scattered across Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan as of 2023, this homegrown business has become an integral part of island life over the past 76 years.

Privately owned local business headquartered in Honolulu

Founded in 1947 by Sidney Kosasa, ABC Stores began as a single liquor store in Waikiki. What started as a modest mom-and-pop shop has flourished into the largest convenience retailer in the Hawaiian islands. The company remains locally owned and headquartered in Honolulu to this day.

500+ stores across Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan as of 2023

From that first little storefront along Kalakaua Avenue to now over 500 locations and counting, ABC Stores has seen remarkable growth while retaining its distinctly local island roots. As of 2023, ABC Stores employs over 2,000 staff members in Hawaii alone and operates multiple distribution centers to supply its far-flung stores.

Hawaii 436 stores
Guam 17 stores
Saipan 8 stores

Though most plentiful in Hawaii, ABC Stores can also be found on the islands of Guam and Saipan. Expansion to California and Las Vegas has even brought a taste of the islands to the mainland United States.

Employs over 2,000 staff across its locations

From cashiers to store managers, over 2,000 employees work hard to bring ABC Stores’ signature selection of snacks, groceries, sundries and souvenirs to locals and visitors alike. Wearing aloha print uniforms, ABC Stores’ friendly staff members share the aloha spirit with all who walk through their doors.

As both a major island employer and community supporter through donations and sponsorships, locally owned ABC Stores continues to play a vital economic role across Hawaii and the broader Pacific. With ambitious expansion plans focused right here at home, it seems ABC Stores will continue serving our island ohana for generations to come.

Mahalo nui loa, ABC Stores!

The Locations and Models of ABC Store Operations

Heavily concentrated in tourism hotspots

ABC stores in Hawaii are situated primarily in areas with high tourist traffic. The convenience retailer strategically locates its outlets near popular hotels, beaches, landmarks, and shopping centers on the various islands.

This allows ABC stores to cater directly to visitors on holiday who are looking for snacks, drinks, sun protection products, and souvenirs. According to industry analysis, over 75% of ABC locations in Hawaii are found in the main tourism hotspots.

3 main store models: destination, community, and specialty

There are three primary types of ABC store models deployed across the Hawaiian islands:

  • Destination stores situated in resort areas, airports, and attractions.
  • Community stores serving local neighborhoods.
  • Specialty stores with a specific theme or product focus such as fine wine.

The destination stores make up the majority of locations due to reliance on tourist spending. Community stores provide more everyday convenience goods for residents but also benefit from some visitor purchases.

The handful of specialty stores cater to specific shopping needs of both locals and guests.

High foot traffic and consistent demand from tourists

By concentrating so heavily in world-famous destinations like Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, Volcanoes National Park, ABC stores enjoy incredibly high foot traffic numbers. Approximately 10 million tourists visited Hawaii in 2019 according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, providing ABC with a huge customer base seeking convenient on-the-go food, drinks, sundries, and souvenirs while on island vacations.

Even with economic downturns that reduce tourism at times, visitor numbers to Hawaii tend to rebound in a reasonably short time. And locals also shop regularly at ABC stores. So the retailer can rely on overall consistent demand across its 130+ locations statewide.

ABC Store Product Selection and Pricing

Wide range of snacks, groceries, souvenirs, and necessities

ABC stores in Hawaii offer an incredibly broad assortment of products, ranging from snacks and groceries to souvenirs and everyday necessities. As convenience stores, they aim to be a one-stop shop providing both locals and tourists with their daily needs and wants.

In the snacks and groceries section, customers can find both mainland American brands like Lays, Hershey’s, and Coca-Cola as well as local Hawaiian favorites such as Mauna Loa macadamia nuts, Lisa’s passion fruit chips, and POG juice.

There is also an assortment of Asian snacks and instant noodles to cater to Hawaii’s diverse population.

The souvenir section features the largest variety of Hawaiiana gifts and memorabilia in the islands. Top sellers include floral-pattern aloha shirts and dresses, Kukui nut leis, pineapple-shaped candles, ukuleles, and collectible Hawaii license plate frames.

These make for perfect mementos for visitors to bring back home.

In addition, ABC stores provide everyday necessities like sunscreen, mosquito repellent, over-the-counter medicine, batteries, phone chargers, hats, sunglasses, beach gear, and more. Whether on the go or caught short, locals and tourists alike know they can pop into the nearest ABC store to pick up essentials.

Mix of national brands and local Hawaiian favorites

ABC stores strike a careful balance between mainstream American brands that visitors recognize and local Hawaiian products unique to the islands. Walking down an ABC store aisle, customers might spot familiar names like Doritos, Tide, Grey Goose, Nintendo, Sony, Apple, and Levi’s.

At the same time, Hawaiian brands found exclusively in the islands share shelf space, such as:

  • Candy and snacks: Mauna Loa, Hawaiian Host, Lisa’s Kettle Style Chips, Baked Paradise Cookies
  • Food and beverages: Aloha Shoyu, POG juices, Kona Coffee, Island Princess Macadamia Nut Liquor Chocolates
  • Health and beauty: Kama‘aina Soap, Hawaii Sea Salt, Raw Love Beauty, Auntie Lilikoi Lip Balm, Banana Boat Sunscreen
  • Souvenirs and gifts: Coco Palms, Native Books\Kahuna Cards, Sig Zane Designs, Niihau shell jewelry, Koa wood bowls

Furthermore, exclusive product partnerships give ABC stores access to specialized local items that boost Hawaiian cultural authenticity. For example, popular “Hawaii” candy brand Big Island Candies partnered with ABC stores to develop a custom packaging collection sold only in their locations across the islands.

Pricing seen as premium by locals

While ABC stores provide convenience for both locals and visitors alike, their pricing is often considered inflated compared to supermarkets and big box stores like Walmart and Costco. Particularly for local residents buying everyday groceries and household necessities, ABC store prices can be seen as premium.

For example, a comparison of some common grocery items shows the significant price differences:

Item ABC Store Price Grocery Store Price
Loaf of white bread $5.49 $2.99
Dozen eggs $4.99 $3.49
Gallon of milk $5.99 $4.39

Part of the reason lies in the higher operating costs for ABC stores associated with prime real estate locations, small retail footprint, and inventory management across multiple islands. Additionally, convenience pricing gives stores higher margins to make up for lower sales volumes compared to big box retailers.

Locals lament that ABC store prices can be 80-100% higher than mass retailers for identical items. However, when caught in a bind, most residents find the convenience worth the higher prices from time to time.

Certainly visitors less familiar with local prices may not blink an eye at paying a small premium for the convenience.

The Role and Reputation of ABC Stores in Hawaii’s Retail Industry

Dominant convenience store chain given scale and locations

With over 80 locations across the Hawaiian islands, ABC stores have established themselves as Hawaii’s leading convenience store chain. Given their scale and presence even in more remote tourist destinations, they enjoy significant name recognition and foot traffic from both locals and visitors alike.

ABC stores offer Hawaiian staples like macadamia nuts along with snacks, beach gear, sunscreen, and other conveniences for tourists. Their locations near hotels and resorts make them a popular stop for vacationers looking to stock up.

While offering convenience, some criticize higher prices compared to big box stores like Costco and Walmart.

Important provider of jobs but concerns over pricing and competition

With over 900 employees statewide, ABC stores offer needed jobs, especially in more rural spots on the islands. Locally-owned franchise locations support local families and communities. However, there are concerns that a lack of competition allows ABC stores to charge higher prices given limited options in some areas.

Gallon of Milk $8.49 at ABC store $4.29 at Safeway
12 pack soda $6.99 at ABC store $3.99 at Costco

While convenient, prices can be almost 50-100% higher than other retailers. Some politicians have called for investigations into potential anti-competitive practices.

Its future in an evolving landscape with new entrants

While dominant now, the future for ABC stores may prove more challenging. As more retailers like Target, Walmart and Amazon expand delivery services statewide, convenience-focused shoppers have more choices.

Though convenient locations still matter, especially for tourists without cars, prices and product selection will require attention to stay competitive.

ABC parent company Pan Pacific faces decisions – compete more on price and variety by leveraging scale or risk losing share? And for better or worse, ABC stores have become part of the local fabric. As third and fourth generation convenience store chain in Hawaii, they face a legacy to uphold alongside growing competition.

Their path forward weighs nostalgia versus necessity – can they modernize while keeping character?


As we’ve explored, ABC stores have become ingrained into the fabric of Hawaii thanks to savvy local ownership building out convenient island-style outposts over the past six decades. With 500+ stores statewide anchored in tourism hotspots, ABC Stores Inc. maintains impressive scale and name recognition.

Looking ahead, it retains firm market dominance but faces emerging challenges—from critiques of pricing to new competitors vying for tourist dollars.

In the end, ABC stores remain a go-to for snacks, essentials, and souvenirs across Hawaii. Driven by key visitor demand and the needs of kama’aina alike, these ubiquitous stores will continue serving both residents and guests for years to come.

But the forces shaping retail will keep pushing ABC Stores Inc. to adapt its offerings and capabilities in an increasingly competitive landscape.

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