MNS, Ltd. History
766 Pohukaina Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Telephone: (808) 591-2550
Toll Free: 888-703-4ABC
Fax: (808) 591-2471
Sales: $150 million (2003 est.)
NAIC: 453220 Gift, Novelty, and Souvenir Stores; 454110 Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses
Just another chain of convenience stores? Not really! Like most convenience store chains ABC Stores has multiple outlets; sixty-seven stores that span the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam and Saipan, along with our newest location--Las Vegas, Nevada. Owned by Sidney and Minnie Kosasa, ABC Stores had its genesis in the 30s. Sidney grew up working in his parents' grocery store in Honolulu and earned a pharmacist's degree at the University of California at Berkeley in 1942. In 1949 the Kosasas opened their own drug store, and a chain of drug stores followed shortly. On a trip to Miami Beach Kosasa watched visitors shopping local convenience stores instead of the high priced hotel shops. He envisioned that Waikiki would someday be packed with visitors, like Miami Beach, and the ABC concept was born: stores conveniently located for visitors with merchandise sold at fair prices. Drawing upon his experience in drug and grocery stores, Kosasa opened the first ABC outlet, on Waikiki Beach in 1964. It stocked groceries, souvenirs, drugs and cosmetics and anything else a visitor would need. He decided to stay away from a fancy moniker and settled on ABC as a name that everyone could remember. Today there are ABC Stores on every major island in the State of Hawaii and the ABC concept has been exported to Guam and Saipan. ABC Stores employs more than 900 Associates. Almost all the stores open 365 days a year from 6:30 AM to 1 AM. Ranked 37th among Hawaii businesses, ABC Stores sells more macadamia nuts, suncare products, souvenirs and other visitor-related products than anyone else in the state. Just another chain of convenience stores? Not really. Making your vacation a bit more enjoyable is what ABC is about!
- Sidney Kosasa opens Kaimuki Pharmacy.
- Medical Arts Pharmacy opens.
- The first ABC Discount Store opens in Waikiki.
- A small grocery store is acquired.
- The company opens a store in Guam.
- The mail-order division opens.
- The web site is launched.
- Paul Kosasa, son of the founders, becomes company president.
- A flagship store opens in Wailea, Maui; the first mainland store opens in Las Vegas.
MNS, Ltd. is the parent company for ABC Stores, a chain of 67 convenience stores based in Honolulu. If you have visited Hawaii, odds are good that you have seen one of them, especially on the island of Oahu, where there are 39 locations. The chain also has locations in Las Vegas, Guam, and Saipan. ABC Stores (no relation to the Alcoholic Beverage Control stores found in some states) provides convenient shopping for travelers. Chain Store Age Executive reported that tourists comprise up to 90 percent of ABC's customers. The emphasis is indeed on convenience; most of the stores are open 365 days a year.
Founded in the mid-1960s to provide an alternative to high-priced hotel stores, the chain is owned by members of the Kosasa family. The concept of cannibalism does not seem to exist to this chain, which has 37 stores in Waikiki alone. Nevertheless, the company has expanded geographically to help weather the ups and downs of the Hawaiian economy. Stores in Guam and Saipan, other popular destinations for residents of Japan, opened in the mid-1990s. In December 2001, ABC opened the first of its locations in Las Vegas, the top tourist destination for Hawaii residents.
Sidney Kosasa was born the son of first-generation Japanese immigrants who owned a grocery store in Honolulu. In 1942 he graduated from the pharmacy program at the University of California at Berkeley.
In 1949 Kosasa launched Kaimuki Pharmacy with his wife, Minnie. Chain Store Age Executive reports Kosasa borrowed $50,000 against his house to launch the venture, while his parents already owned the land where the store stood.
Kosasa opened the Medical Arts Pharmacy in 1954, and the next year launched the Thrifty Drugs of Hawaii chain, which included five shops, three of them inside Gem department stores. Kosasa's Thrifty chain was not related to a similarly named business based in California. MNS, Ltd., which would be the parent company of ABC Stores, was incorporated in Hawaii on June 17, 1955. It merged with Sidko Sundries, Inc. on April 30, 1965, and with SMK, Inc. on December 27, 1991.
According to the Pacific Business News, Kosasa was inspired by the success of convenience stores he saw in Miami as an alternative to expensive hotel shops. The Kosasas brought the idea to the heart of Waikiki, opening the first ABC Discount Store there in 1964. This location, reported Chain Store Age Executive, stocked prescription drugs as well as healthcare and beauty items.
Kosasa acquired a grocery store in 1968, broadening ABC's offerings. The mix was tweaked further by dropping the prescription drugs (and the pharmacist) from the stores, while liquor and touristy gifts were added. The name was also abbreviated to simply ABC Stores (dropping the "Discount"). When the chain expanded, new ABC Stores sprouted within blocks of each other.
New Leadership, New Horizons in the 1980s and 1990s
The Kosasas' son Paul had worked at the stores since the first grade, reported Hawaii Business. After earning an engineering degree at the University of Michigan in 1979, he worked for a time at a Los Angeles supermarket, studying the business while stocking shelves. He rejoined ABC Stores in 1980 as an assistant manager trainee. After successive managerial positions and extensive time as a buyer, he became company president and chief executive officer in 1999. The Ernst & Young consulting firm dubbed Sidney Kosasa an Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997. These two decades were a period of great growth for ABC Stores until the Hawaiian economy slowed down in the late 1990s.
ABC Stores-Guam Inc. and ABC Stores-Saipan Inc. were incorporated in March 1995. These were tourist markets with a lot of visitors. The first Guam store opened its doors in 1996; one in Saipan followed a couple of years later. The two islands were closer to Japan than Hawaii and more attractive to young Japanese tourists, noted Pacific Business News.
A mail-order division opened in 1997, allowing ABC to communicate with its customers after they left the Islands. Volume, however, was small. The company launched an online catalog in March 1998, beginning with just 50 items (this increased tenfold in the next few years). The ABC Stores web site was featured in national advertising for the company's e-commerce vendor, IBM.
Hawaii Business Magazine reported ABC Stores had revenues of $155 million in 2000, when the company had 600 employees. The company continued to tweak its product mix, adding jewelry and cosmetics at certain locations.
On the Mainland in 2001
A new 5,500-square-foot flagship store opened on Maui in February 2001 in The Shops at Wailea. The nautical-themed store won its Honolulu-based architects a national award. Observers felt confident ABC could ascertain and meet the needs of this upscale locale.
ABC opened its first store in the mainland United States in December 2001, inaugurating a 6,500-square-foot location on Freemont Street in Las Vegas. The resort center seemed well suited to the ABC Stores concept. Las Vegas, which hosted 30 million visitors a year, was the favorite tourist destination for Hawaii residents and had a sizable population of former residents, many of whom congregated at the nearby California Hotel. Two more stores opened in Las Vegas toward the end of 2002, one of them in the colossal Fashion Show Mall, which was anchored by eight department stores and was undergoing a $1 billion expansion. ABC Stores' sales rose about 2 percent to $143 million in 2002, according to one source.
Another dozen stores were planned for Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press. "We are always interested in expanding," company President Paul Kosasa told Pacific Business News in 2004. Existing stores also were being continually updated.
The relaxing of city rules requiring new parking to accompany retail construction prompted the makeover of a half-dozen ABC Stores along Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue, a major pedestrian thoroughfare, reported Pacific Business News. This included a $1 million renovation of a 3,500-square-foot store at the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Kanekapolei Street. The renovation of the outdated building was comprehensive; three of the store's four walls were torn down in the process.
After opening a new site at the Waikiki Marriott, ABC Stores had 55 locations in the Hawaiian Islands (37 in Waikiki alone), seven in Guam, two in Saipan, and three in Las Vegas, where it was planning to add more. The company had more than 900 employees, most of whom were full time; this was a rarity in the convenience store industry, noted the Associated Press.
ABC Stores considered its employees ambassadors not just for the company, but for Hawaii, Paul Kosasa told Hawaii Business. A secret shopper service was used to monitor the courtesy and sales skills of its clerks. The chain tried to keep repeat customers interested by mixing up its selection of souvenirs. Kosasa told Pacific Business News the company employed special staff to accommodate Hawaii's Japanese-speaking guests, who made up a little less than a third of ABC's business.
Principal Competitors: 7-Eleven Hawaii Inc.; Food Pantry Ltd.; Longs Drug Stores Corporation; Outrigger Enterprises, Inc.
- "AM Partners Wins Design Award," Pacific Business News, February 7, 2002.
- Cho, Frank, "Guam to Get ABC Stores," Pacific Business News, June 5, 1995, p. 1.
- Choo, David K., "Stocking Up; ABC Stores' Paul Kosasa Says the Key to Successful Retail in Waikiki Is to Remerchandise," Hawaii Business, Road Ahead Sec., July 2004.
- Cruz, Cathy S., "All Blocks Covered," Hawaii Business Magazine, Top 250 Family Businesses, August 1, 2001, p. 46.
- Danninger, Lyn, "ABC Rolls the Dice in Las Vegas; The Hawaii-Based Retail Chain Is Set to Open Its First Store on the Mainland," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 22, 2001.
- Engle, Erika, "Cinnamon on a Roll," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 19, 2002.
- Higa, Carrie Lyn, "Humble Beginnings," Hawaii Business, August 1997, pp. 19+.
- Jones, Chris, "The Lei of the Land; Hawaiian Retailers Add Stores in Las Vegas, Targeting City's Tourist-Heavy Clientele," Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 8, 2002.
- Paiva, Derek, "ABC Stores Meets Big Blue's Hawaii," Hawaii Business, January 1, 2000, p. 18.
- "Sidney S. Kosasa," Chain Store Age Executive, December 1997, p. 80.
- Sokei, Debbie, "Hawaii Businesses Find Fertile Ground in Las Vegas," Pacific Business News, October 24, 2003.
- Song, Jaymes, "ABC Taps What Tourists Need," Honolulu Advertiser, May 31, 2004.
- Warner, Gary A., "Vegas Goes Hawaiian; The California Hotel & Casino Is a Slice of Aloha in the Gambling Mecca," Orange County Register (California), Travel Sec., April 7, 2002.
- Wilson, Marianne, "ABC Puts Upscale Spin on Convenience Retail," Chain Store Age Executive, October 2001, pp. 116+.
- Wu, Nina, "ABCs of Retailing Pay Off for Family-Owned Chain," Pacific Business News, March 15, 2004.
- ------, "Relaxed Rules Spur Waikiki Retail Growth," Pacific Business News, July 2, 2004.
- Youn, Jacy L., "Does the Customer Come First?," Hawaii Business, April 2002.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 65. St. James Press, 2004.