Find out why Waikiki’s sundry stores are so popular.
Every traveler knows that sinking feeling you get when you realize, after checking into your hotel following a long flight, that you forgot your toothbrush. Every beachgoer knows what it’s like to finally find a spot on the sand, after battling parking lots, only to dig through your bag for sunscreen and come up empty-handed.
But here in Waikiki, those feelings are only as fleeting as the amount of time it takes to walk to the nearest convenience store—which, as you have likely noticed, probably isn’t very far from wherever you picked up this magazine.
Whether you’re looking to stock up on snacks before an around-the-island adventure or fuel up for a night out, any one of the convenience stores around town will have you covered.
According to the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, the concept for these types of shops originated in Texas in the 1920s when a Southland Ice Company store started carrying items to cater to customers who needed to shop after the grocery stores had closed for the day. The idea soon spread throughout the company, and meanwhile, other similar concepts began to take hold throughout the country. These stores thrived, it seemed, on the increasingly fast-paced American culture and rise in the popularity of automobiles. These new hybrids were like general stores for the modern world.
In accordance with the rest of the country, convenience stores became popular in Waikiki around midcentury—an era when the streets of Waikiki were just beginning to bustle with a hint of the rush that was to come. The stores thrived—and continue to thrive—on the visitor industry, providing a much-needed service to Waikiki’s ever-changing population.
Perhaps nobody explains the pervasiveness of convenience stores in the area better than ABC Stores director of public relations Neil Ishida.
“When you walk out of a hotel when you are visiting Hawai‘i, your time is very valuable, and your budget is, too,” Ishida says. “You are looking for something that is reasonable, convenient and familiar.”
Here’s an overview of some of the convenience stores you will find around Waikiki:
Easily the most recognized convenience store chain in town, ABC Stores are found all throughout Waikiki. With 41 ABC Stores on O‘ahu—and 39 of those in Waikiki—you’re sure to stumble upon one (or dozens) of these.
Ishida says that ABC Stores prides itself on carrying high-quality, varied goods, as well as items that are exclusive to the chain. Items include jewelry, beauty products, beachwear, beverages, snacks and home decor. You also will find a wide selection of souvenirs, including photos, mugs, calendars and more.
With the sheer amount of ABC Stores in Waikiki, they provide a sense of familiarity to repeat customers.
The most recent addition to the Waikiki convenience store scene is Lawson Station, which opened two stores in Waikiki last July—one in Sheraton Waikiki and the other at Moana Surfrider.
In addition to beach necessities like towels and sunscreen and souvenirs including Hawai‘i-made candy and coffee, Lawson Station also carries an impressive selection of fresh foods. Dishes including tempura bentos, sushi, udon and soba are brought in fresh every day.
Lawson Station might be new store on the block here, but it’s a familiar sight to many visitors. With hundreds of stores in China and Indonesia and more than 10,000 in Japan, Lawson Station will certainly provide a level of comfort to many of Hawai‘i’s visitors.
“In Japan, Lawson Station is very popular,” explains senior manager of sales and marketing Shinya Kato. “[Everybody] knows Lawson. There are many Japanese visitors in Hawai‘i, so all of them know Lawson.”
Whalers General Store
This one-stop shop got its start in the islands around the time that convenience stores were first beginning to boom. With its first location on Maui in 1960, the store was created as a way to provide travelers with everything they might need during their stay.
Today, with three stores in Waikiki—on Lewers Street, at the Hilton Hawai‘ian Village and in the Ambassador Hotel—Whalers is still taking care of Hawai‘i’s visitors, and has cultivated a creative line of products.
In addition to basic vacation needs like drinks, snacks and beachwear, Whalers features a range of locally made items, which senior director of marketing and corporate communications Sheryl Toda says are among the most popular items.
In addition to locally made products, Whalers General Store also designs and creates a number of exclusive products in-house that can only be found at Whalers and its affiliates. These include reusable shopping bags, quilt bags, towels and coffee mugs.