Marukai 99 Cents Superstore employees Lina Flores, Victoria Kahapea and Janelle Ohelo stocked the kitchenware section of the store yesterday n preparation for the grand opening May 25.

Marukai supersizes
99-cent concept

Waipahu Town Center will likely be swarming with bargain hunters Memorial Day weekend as the 37-year-old Marukai Corp. flings open the doors to its newest endeavor -- the Marukai 99 Cents Superstore.

At 20,000 square feet it's about three times bigger than its predecessor on Ward Avenue and 70 people will be hired to staff the new store, according to Vice President Richard Matsu. That brings Marukai Corp.'s employee count to about 240.

He plans to carry 10,000 different types of merchandise -- at 99 cents each.

A resourceful shopper "can set up all your things (in your home) at the 99 Cents Store, table cloths, wine glasses, dishes," Matsu said.

"People can save a lot of money," he said. "Then, if you cannot find (something) you can go someplace else to buy it."

Or maybe get along without it?

"Uh-huh," he agreed.

Matsu said his merchandise is manufactured in countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, "wherever I can get a good deal, I buy."

Because of the name of the store, "I cannot raise the price," he chuckled.

At such low prices, though, can he still make money? "If I can't make money," he said, "I don't do business."

The company was established in Hawaii as a wholesale business in 1965. It was an outgrowth of his father's business which had been exporting Asian food to Hawaii from Japan, Matsu said.

"When I came to Hawaii the military didn't have any Japanese food (in its commissaries)," Matsu said, so he negotiated those first deals.

Now the back and forth between Hawaii and Japan also involves shipments of people.

Matsu's wife, Jo, leads about eight Marukai Tours per year to "introduce the true Japan," to local people, he said. Clients are mainly in their 50s and 60s, Matsu said, and learn everything from fishing to making noodles "from the powder."

Marukai Corp. has survived the slings and arrows of the big-box influx by walking their walk with its wholesale warehouse on Kamehameha Highway in Kalihi.

"I learned from Costco to open this store," he said. "When they first opened in San Diego I went over there."

The happy individual and business customers "finding so much merchandise in an easy way" did not escape his attention and the company opened Marukai Wholesale Mart in 1987; there is another at 1020 Auahi St. in the Victoria Ward complex.

Annual membership costs $10 for anybody more than 18 years old, Matsu said, but only $5 for those over 50.

Also in the Victoria Ward area are the company's first Marukai 99 Cents Store, Marukai Specialty Mart, Marukai Marketplace and Kenko Kenko, which sells Japanese health and beauty products to predominantly local clientele.

The company also has stores in the Los Angeles area which are overseen by brother and President Hidejiro Matsu. He operates one membership store and four Marukai 98 Cents Stores.

Matsu is keeping an eye out for possible expansion in the Windward and Hawaii Kai areas.

In the meantime, the grand opening of its Waipahu location begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 25.

The first 1,000 customers will receive a free miniature battery-operated fan and customers making a $30 purchase or more may buy a 20-pound bag of rice for -- what else? -- 99 cents.

Those preferring not to wait for food may purchase bento, yakiniku, andagi or a hot dog and soda combo for 99 cents each.

"Every week we will try to have some kind of promotion," Matsu said.

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

E-mail to Business Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin