Thursday, September 19, 2002

Cinnamon on a roll

More Hawaii retailers, both prolific and growing, will take their places next to the grand dames of retailing in the $1 billion expansion of Las Vegas' Fashion Show mall.

Cinnamon Girl, an ABC Store and a Maui Divers' Island Pearls store will be alongside eight 800-pound retail gorillas: Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's Home, Dillard's and Robinsons-May.

Cinnamon Girl's Jonelle and Reid Fujita are expanding their company and their family at the same time, bringing new son James into the world just under nine weeks ago. Daughter Jolie is three years old.

Shantel Awaya, assistant manager, worked at Cinnamon Girl at Ward Warehouse yesterday. The six-store chain is expanding to Las Vegas.

The Fujitas' next new arrival, a store in Las Vegas, is due in November.

"The spookiest part is just deciding to do it but now that it's going full force it's just exciting," Jonelle said.

Reid is in Las Vegas for a walk-through of the space in the new wing of the mall, which is still under construction. The new store will be 1,500 square feet, about the same size as the Ala Moana location, he said.

The company has steadily grown since Jonelle first set up a kiosk at Aloha Tower Marketplace in November 1994. She now has more than half a dozen retail operations, including the new store.

"When I opened that little kiosk it was just a dream to open a regular store with four walls," she said.

From there it was on to Ward Warehouse in 1995, Waikiki in 1997, Maui in 1998, Ala Moana in 1999, and to the DFS Galleria and Pearlridge Uptown in 2001. She closed the kiosk in 1996.

A Cinnamon Girl store manager and assistant manager will relocate for three months to get operations up and running, while another company executive will do the initial hiring of up to 15 full- and part-time employees.

ABC Stores plans two new stores in Vegas, Nos. 64 and 65, and is shooting for November openings.

One will be in Fashion Show mall while the other will be in Desert Passage, where Hilo Hattie and other Hawaii retailers have also set up shop. ABC's first mainland store opened last summer on Fremont Street not far from the California Hotel.

That opened doors for other opportunities, said Paul Kosasa, president and chief executive officer.

As in Hawaii, the Las Vegas stores will be geared toward the visitor market with a decidedly Hawaii-feel for those who can't make it to the islands, he said.

Most visiting stand-up comics performing in Hawaii joke about asking for directions and being told to "turn right at the ABC store," which Kosasa laughs about along with the rest of us.

The same omnipresence in Las Vegas would be "desirable, but I don't think the dynamics are the same," he said.

A handful of ABC-folk will move to Las Vegas for the new locations but most employees will be Las Vegas residents.

Maui Divers first went to the mainland earlier this year, opening a concession in a Hilo Hattie in California in February and last month in Hilo Hattie's store in Desert Passage, a mall adjacent to the Aladdin hotel.

"This will be our first free-standing store (on the mainland) and it will operate under our Island Pearls brand," said Bob Taylor, president and chief executive officer. Island Pearls' three other high-end jewelry stores are at Hilton Hawaiian Village, Whalers Village on Maui and in Kauai's Anchor Cove Shopping Center.

Taylor made three exploratory trips to Las Vegas last year before deciding on the 800-square-foot Fashion Show mall location. "They were very keen on having us become part of the mall and they offered us this location, which we consider a prime location," he said. That was in November.

An experienced store manager will stay in Las Vegas for 60 to 90 days to establish the company's 30th and train the eight to 10 employees that will be hired, Taylor said.

Retail Strategies, which represents ABC Stores, helped land the store's new locations in Las Vegas including Fashion Show mall.

"I discovered they were looking for other unusual, one-of-a-kind retailers," said Doug Smoyer, Retail Strategies president. Word got around after that.

"It's one of the most incredible malls in the world, with eight department stores," he said.

Other resort retail destinations have seen that Hawaii's unique and successful retailers are professional in what they do, Smoyer said. "So for that reason I expect to see continued growth of Hawaii retailers going to other resort areas."

Both Maui Divers and ABC Stores are looking at further expansion but are not yet ready to announce their next moves.

"We always keep our eyes open," Kosasa said. "The idea is to bring some money back home."

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

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