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TheBuzz

BY ERIKA ENGLE

Thursday, May 30, 2002



art
DEAN SENSUI / DSENSUI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Patsy Kishimoto, center, was one of many who lined up Saturday for the opening of the Marukai 99-Cent Superstore in Waipahu.




Small prices, big opening
at Waipahu’s 99-cent store


If the first-day food run is any indication, the three-day, Memorial Day weekend grand opening of the Marukai 99-cent Superstore in Waipahu was a big success.

The company's kitchen staff was tapped to serve 99-cent lunches and snacks for the affair, offering a hot dog with soda, teri-beef in a bun with soda, andagi or shave-ice.

The food run was necessary after eager, hungry and lined-up bargain hunters went through 3,000 hot dogs before the end of the first day, according to Richard Matsu, vice president of Marukai Corp.

He didn't have an estimate of how many pounds of teri-beef or other foods were sold over the weekend, but figures 8,000 customers walked through his new store's doors each day.

Matsu and his staff were slightly more than surprised by the turnout.

"I was dreaming (the opening would be) like this," he said.

"It was so fantastic," Matsu said. "When I look at the customers, they enjoyed it so much."

He stationed himself and a staff member inside the door to greet the masses with smiles, slight bows, thank-yous, coupons and flyers from other Waipahu Town Center merchants.

As he thanked the customers for coming to shop, "they said, 'Oh, thank you for making this kind of store.' I was so glad to hear that kind of thing," Matsu said. Because of the over-capacity crowd, the company stationed a security guard at the entrance to regulate the flow of shoppers into the store and prevent it from becoming overcrowded. When shoppers completed purchases and left the store, others standing in a line stretching along many neighboring storefronts were let in.

Lines of customers snaked through the store waiting to pay for their purchases. Cashiers churned out the transactions by simply counting up the number of 99-cent items each customer presented. "We had eight registers and they each had two people," said Matsu.

It was the first time the cashiers had seen this kind of business volume, Matsu said. "The cashiers were so busy but they gave good service and smiles to the customers, it was so great."

Most of the Waipahu store's employees are from the surrounding area.

Staff members throughout the store kept smiling despite the recurring theme of customers' most typical questions: "How much is this?" "Does this cost 99 cents?" And Matsu's favorite, "When is this 99 cents (price) going to end?"

"I tell them 99 cents is going to be the price every day," he said.

"I thought we advertised enough that everything is 99 cents," he laughed. "It's the 99-cent store."





Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached
at: eengle@starbulletin.com




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