ABC Stores trying to survive pandemic, company considering closing some locations

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Even Hawaii’s long-standing businesses are having a tough time due the coronavirus pandemic.

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Some have closed up permanently, while others are just trying to get by.

ABC Stores are not immune to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

The Waikiki staple has been around for decades. The convenience store wouldn’t have been possible without Paul Kosasa’s grandfather, who opened up M. Kosasa Grocery Store in Kaimuki around 1917.

“My uncle and my father were born on the second floor of that store,” Paul Kosasa, the President and CEO of ABC Stores, explained. “My father was born in 1919, and so that’s the beginning of the retail business.”

Kosasa’s father, Sidney, went to McKinley High School and got a degree in pharmacy from UC Berkeley.

After spending time in a California internment camp, Sidney Kosasa moved back to Hawaii and became the store manager and pharmacist of his father’s store.

“So in 1949, they established the Kaimuki Pharmacy Store,” Paul Kosasa said.

It was a trip to Miami that sparked the idea of starting a chain of convenience stores in Hawaii.

“As they were walking along Miami, they envisioned Waikiki being like Miami one day,” Kosasa said about his parent’s idea to start ABC Stores. “So when they got back, they decided to try it out.”

The first ABC Store opened in 1964.

Paul said his father chose the name ABC Store because he wanted it to be easy to remember and at the start of the phone book.

Today, there are 75 locations with roughly 1,400 employees.

Paul Kosasa said the pandemic has been by far the company’s most difficult challenge.

Almost half of all its locations are currently closed.

“The business is so slow that we lose money in every store,” Kosasa said. “We have to serve our community. There’s many residents and many locals that go to the beach, and so we remain open to cater to them.”

Kosasa admitted that he is looking at closing a handful of locations to ease the financial burden the pandemic has caused.

“I’m in the midst of negotiating with several of our landlords,” said Kosasa. “There are situations where if my lease is going to come up, I could probably just say, ‘You know, no thanks. I can’t stay open. There’s just not enough business.”

Kosasa added that the sooner visitors can come back to the islands, the quicker he can bring back his employees.

“I’m kind of counting on our leadership to to get us there. So if the Oct. 1 date sticks, I’ll have a lot more optimism going forward,” Kosasa said about the potential start to the pre-travel testing program for trans pacific travel.

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