ABC Stores in Hawaii History: What’s the Deal with ABC?

If you ask a Hawaiian what the “ABC” in “ABC Stores” stands for, they might tell you that it means, “All Blocks Covered”, no doubt with a wry smile and their tongues pressed firmly into their cheeks.

If you’re a tourist in the area, there’s a good chance that you will have considered this question, or some variant thereof, because the ABC Stores chain has puzzled many visitors to the island over the years.

So, in the words of countless American visitors, what’s the deal with ABC Stores?

The History of ABC Stores

The ABC Stores chain was founded by Sidney Kosasa back in 1964.

He opened his first store in Waikiki and originally called it “Mister K”, after his nickname.

Born to Japanese parents in Honolulu, Kosasa spent his youth working in his family’s grocery store, learning the trade as he bought, sold, stocked, and conversed.

In 1949 Kosasa opened a pharmacy that eventually expanded into a small chain, and it’s off the back of this success that he launched what would later become ABC Stores.

The goal was to appeal to the massive increase of tourists that the islands were witnessing, and this was also behind the name change, as he deemed “ABC” to be simple and easy to remember.

By 1975, there were half a dozen ABC Stores across Hawaii and this grew to 21 by 1980 and more than 60 by the turn of the millennium.

Sydney Kosasa passed away in 2006, but the chain remains as strong as ever and operates over 55 locations across Hawaii, as well as a handful in Las Vegas and the Mariana Islands.

Waikiki

Not only was Waikiki the location of the very first ABC Stores, but it also became a hub for the brand, with close to half of its locations based there. If you’ve ever been to Waikiki, you will have no doubt seen these stores for yourself—it’s hard to miss them.

Waikiki spans just a few square miles, and yet it’s home to more than 30 ABC Stores, supplying tourists with all of their souvenir and convenience needs.

If you drop a marker anywhere on a map of Waikiki, there’s a good chance that you’ll land on or near ABC Stores.

The fact that it is so ubiquitous has made ABC Stores somewhat of a bucket list item.

It’s one of the first and last places that outsiders visit, whether they’re looking for sunglasses and sunscreen to help them deal with the searing heat or want to grab some snacks and drinks to enjoy on the beach.

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