By: Al Urbanski, Chain Store Age
In 1912, Walter Dillingham bought a tract of swamp in Honolulu saying, “Maybe it will be worth something some day.”
Of course, Dillingham had a plan. His Hawaiian Dredging Company dug sand and coral to fill in such wetlands and create useable real estate and, in 1949, his son Lowell proposed the site would be perfect for a new idea in retailing—the shopping center.
The resulting project, Ala Moana Center, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is said by current owner Brookfield Properties to be the largest outdoor shopping center in the world with 2.4 million sq. ft. of retail space.
“Ala Moana Center has gone through many transformations over the years, but the loyalty of our customers, merchants and employees has always remained the same,” said Francis Cofran, senior general manager.
Current tenants at Ala Moana, which is a quick walk from Waikiki Beach, include Neiman Marcus, Hermes, Gucci, Bloomingdales, and Hawaii’s only Nordstrom store. Its 52 food and beverage establishments and entertainment features draw more than 50 million visitors a year.
All through July and August, Ala Moana will celebrate its milestone with a series of promotions and events. On the Fourth of July, visitors will be treated with 20% savings at more than 40 stores and a fireworks display. A 60th Birthday Celebration on Aug. 10 will feature a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony along with a sweepstakes for shoppers to win $250 gift cards.
Ala Moana opened its doors on Aug. 13, 1959 with 87 merchants covering 680,000 sq. ft. of GLA. Seven of those original tenants are still operating at the center. Among those long gone are Long’s Drugs, Reyn’s, Territorial Savings Bank, and Watumull’s.