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Business // Entrepreneurs
Christina O’Connor

A Sweet Local Company Is Set To Go International

Honolulu Cookie Company opened its first store outside of the Islands May 17, with a shop in Las Vegas at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Palazzo. The Vegas store is just the first move in what seems like an aggressive expansion process that already is stretching internationally: A store in Seoul, South Korea, is set to open in August, and the company currently is exploring other locales, including Japan and Hong Kong, as possibilities for future expansion. Plus, another one is coming to Wailea in July, as well as a second Vegas store in December. In the markets that are successful, the company plans to increase its properties in those areas.

“The company’s intentions and its aspirations have always been to eventually grow beyond Hawaii,” explains Honolulu Cookie Company president Randy Yeager.

Honolulu Cookie Company launched in 1998, created by local entrepreneurs Keith and Janet Sung. Previously, the couple made wholesale souvenirs for visitors. As Ginger Waters, vice president of marketing, explains, the Sungs always had an eye for tourists’ tastes, and it was with that target market in mind that they sought to create a quality cookie paired with elegant packaging — a perfect gift for visitors to bring home, or for locals to share with out-of-town friends.

“They started with a very simple recipe, which is shortbread, and (they) wanted to make it special and make it mean Hawaii,” Waters explains, adding that the Sungs spent years perfecting the recipe. “And what says Hawaii more than (these) flavors and the pineapple shape?”

Honolulu Cookie Company offers a range of flavors, including lilikoi mango, chocolate-dipped macadamia, butter macadamia, Kona coffee and pineapple.

The company began with manufacturing and wholesale, branching out to retail in 2001 with its first store in Kalihi. Since then, the operation has expanded to include 10 retail stores on Oahu and two on Maui.

In looking for the first locale outside of Hawaii, Las Vegas seemed like an ideal choice.

“There is a lot of traffic between here and Las Vegas,” says Yeager, who took over as president in January, but has been an adviser to the company since it launched its retail operation.

Another reason the company thinks Vegas will work, Yeager says, is because Vegas and Hawaii are similar in that they are both repeat destinations for affluent international travelers.

For the new store, Honolulu Cookie Company has created a line of products tailored to Las Vegas: cookies shaped like diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts. Developing products that are evocative of each individual location is something the company plans to do for all of its forthcoming stores.

Yeager says that waiting more than 15 years before expanding outside of the Islands has been a strategic move. In that time, the company has been able to penetrate the local market, build brand recognition, and develop the infrastructure and ability to really scale the business now.

As Yeager sees it, regardless of how big the company gets, it all rests on its simple beginnings: “No matter what kind of business you’re in, you have to have a good product first.”

Company officials are confident that they will be successful in other markets.

“We appreciate the acceptance and reception that we have had from our customers over the years. We have had so many requests to expand and to come closer to the customers, and that is really what we are doing — we are trying to respond to the interest that our customers have in us,” Yeager says. “And we will see where that takes us.”

For more information, visit honolulucookie.com.

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