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99 Hundred Bottles of Rum on the Wall at Ewa Pantry

“…Take one down and pass it around. There’s still 99 hundred bottles of Gin on the Wall.”

While an exaggeration, one look around Ewa Pantry in Ewa Beach, and you’d be hard-pressed not to believe there’s more than that many bottles of just about every type of alcoholic beverage one can find on the PLANET in this moderately-sized store. After hearing about this place from my coworkers who live in Ewa Beach, while out there recently on a work-related field trip, I dropped by Ewa Pantry to it see for myself.

Sure enough, Oh. My. GOD! I have NEVER seen this much variety and quantity of spirits under one roof in my entire life! We’re talking wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor and every nook ‘n cranny in between crammed with hard liquor, liqueur, wine, champagne, beer, “moonshine” and whatever else that has the word “Proof” somewhere on its label.

Ironically, hot on the heels of my visit to Silva’s Store right down the street, as it turns out, Ewa Pantry owner Danny Hwang (originally from South Korea, however grew up on Oahu) once owned Silva’s store from 1990 to ’95, as well as Diners Drive-In in Pearl City in the Waimalu Plaza (Safeway & City Mill anchor tenants) from 1994 to 2004.

In 2004 Danny sold Diners Drive-In to start Ewa Pantry in the Ewa Pointe Marketplace as one of its original tenants. By  the way, it isn’t in Ewa Beach Shopping Center, as it’s mislabeled on Google Maps.

Ewa Pantry struggled when it first started, due to the fact that Ocean Pointe was still being built and many surrounding new housing developments were just beginning to become occupied. Also, for the first 3 years of Ewa Pointe being open, you could only make a right turn heading Makai on Fort Weaver Road, however you couldn’t turn left into the Marketplace parking lot heading Mauka. Not only that, but there weren’t any recognizable anchor tenants at the time, until KFC finally got built years later.

Ewa Pointe Marketplace
Kaimalie Street & Fort Weaver Road, Ewa Beach

 

Today, Danny says business is doing fairly well, with a support base of regular customers, as well as positive word-of-mouth advertising due to Ewa Pantry’s incredible inventory of exotic alcoholic beverages. In fact, when asked how he would summarize Ewa Pantry in one sentence, Danny says it would be “Oahu’s Largest Selection of Alcoholic Beverages”. And quite possibly the entire state! And unless the likes of an alcoholic beverages “big box” retailer such as BevMo! comes to town (yes, stores like do exist!), Ewa Pantry looks to hold on to that title. And it should, as it’s quite simply AWESOME!

Incredibly, even with that many shiny glass bottles bound to attract dust, the entire inventory is kept very clean and dust-free, making everything look like fresh stock, even if it had been sitting for a while. And Danny doesn’t mind inventory sitting, as he’d rather have what the larger retailers don’t carry, as that’s Ewa Pantry’s niche. Supermarkets and wholesale clubs will only stock what moves and purchased in bulk, while he goes for the “onesie-twosie” specialty liquors you just won’t see anywhere else.

Speaking of stock, at any given time, there are between 3,500 and 5,000 individual label sku numbers available. Which is incredible, considering that many bottles can actually fit within the store’s moderate 2,500 of floor space. And every bottle for sale in Ewa Pantry is purchased through licensed alcoholic beverage wholesale distributors in the state of Hawaii. So there’s no “iffy”, non-approved “moonshine” sold here from third world countries or uncle Jack’s den, if ya’ know what I mean.

Price-wise, Ewa Pantry strives to be competitive with most of the mainstream liquors such as Crown Royal and Patron, while of course Danny says his prices on even many of the niche items are close to what you’d pay at the supermarket or online, if they even carry it. The only thing he can’t complete with the bigger boys are high volume items such as Heineken Beer, where places such as Walmart will sometimes sell liquor like that  at loss leader prices just to get you in the store, not to mention the ability to buy at lower bulk prices with room to store it.

There’s a no return policy at Ewa Pantry, which Danny explained is the only way to keep the business profitable, while also protecting customers from potentially tampered products. A good case-in-point in recent news in that regard would be a story out of San Francisco, where a woman attempted to switch orange juice in a Starbucks Cafe with ones that were laced with lethal amounts of Isopropyl Alcohol in it. Scary. So in one way, think of Ewa Pantry’s no return policy as a guarantee that the product you’re buying is 100% what it is, and new at that, not “previously owned”.

They also carry a nice selection of Cigars, however I got so overwhelmed with all the booze, paid little attention to “little detailed add-ons” like that. But hey, by all means, you Cigar aficionados may want to call or head on over to Ewa Pantry yourself and check out if they’ve got a smoke that suits your taste.

Well, let’s take a walk around Ewa Pantry and get virtually toasted together….

It is absolutely MIND-BLOWING how much booze is squeezed into this moderately-sized store. On top of that, many of it are in single facings (one item per linear shelf space), not duplicated to fill shelf space like you’d find in a supermarket. While you certainly should never drink and drive, you also shouldn’t enter this story under the influence, as there’s way too many delicate bottles vulnerable to being knocked over. In fact, they should require a sobriety test to everyone walking IN the store! Seriously!

There’s so much booze in there, this is how my liver probably looked while in the place…

This place sort of reminds me of those tiny otaku shops in Tokyo, stuffed every cubical inch of shelf, box or floor space with merchandise, with only enough clear pathway for one person to walk through at a time in any given direction. Especially in the back hard liquor area. If you remember how Toys ‘n Joys in Kaimuki used to be before they expanded, think that, except filled with booze instead of Japanese toy collectibles. Which means you certainly don’t wanna’ walk into this store already feeling tipsy, lest you start a domino effect fall of an entire run of Johnny Walker that just so happened to be right next to your foot. Ack!

Which is why I had such strained camera angles, as I could barely get enough distance to fit an entire aisle or wall within the frame, the space between was that narrow. The camera I was using not having a wide angle lens didn’t help either.

Danny updates Ewa Pantry’s Facebook page himself, juggling that along with his busy schedule running the business. Here’s a few of the past arrivals he’s posted on FB…


Don Q Mojito & Coco, 2 new rums from DonQ. In stock now at Ewa Pantry (posted on FB 12/2012).


Another must-try apple cider. Will be available on Mon 9/24.
Don’t let the sweet taste fool you. It registers at 6.2% alc.


J. K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider in 22 oz btl. Brought the sample btl home. Ummm Yummm. So sweet, so delicious…you gonna want to drink it all night long. It’ll be available at Ewa Pantry on Mon 9/24/12.


Dark Depth with 7.8% alc brewed by Sam Adams available in 22 oz. Just in time for the football season.


Oktoberfest by Erdinger available now!


Another new Mexican beer to hit the island. Available at Ewa Pantry in 6-pks.


CHILI BEER
(Cerveza con Chili)
Just got the original Chili Beer in 6-pks re-stocked and chilled to ice-cold, just the way it’s recommended. Each btl has one green seranno chili inside.


New beers at Ewa Pantry


New beers at Ewa Pantry

I really can’t say any more about Ewa Pantry except you really need to go and check it out for yourself. Even if you’re not a drinker (I can’t drink hards at all), you’ll be absolutely jaw-dropped by how many different alcoholic beverages they stock.

While from the outside it appears very unassuming, once you enter its hallowed halls, you’ll realize Ewa Pantry isn’t just any other neighborhood liquor store, but more like an 80 Proof MUSEUM!

Ewa Pantry
91-1001 Kaimalie St
Suite 101A
Ewa Beach, HI 96706

Tel. (808) 689-0000

Business hours:
Mon-Sat 8 am – 11:30 pm
Sun 9 am – 11:30 pm

Web links:
Facebook/Ewa.Pantry
Ewa Pantry – Yelp user reviews

10 thoughts on “99 Hundred Bottles of Rum on the Wall at Ewa Pantry

  • April 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm
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    I don’t drink hard liquor and have not for many years, but I don’t mind others doing it and I sure like the fact that there are stores like this still around. They are disappearing.
    Love the bourbon and rye selection. We used have an old bottle of Okolehau from the 20’s in the liquor cupboard. With booze still in. Made from Ti. Unfortunately a hurricane did that in.
    Cocktails were invented in America. And Hawaii added way more than its share to the list.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2013 at 3:52 am
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    And that folks is how you cram a BevMo into the space of a Subway.

    Dang!!! Very impressive. It looks on the verge of out of control but I am sure the owner knows where everything is.

    I wonder about the loose bottles on the ground level. I’d hate to accidently kick one and start a chain reaction.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2013 at 11:47 am
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    Pomai,

    Ewa Pantry looks like a typical New England liquor store but smaller. Alcoholic beverages can only be sold in a licensed liquor store and not in your local mom & pop stores, convenience stores, drugstores or big box store like in Hawaii. Old New England puritanical “Blue Laws”.

    I lived in Rhode Island but a very short drive over state line was Yankee Spirits Inc. in Attleboro, MA. There are three Yankee Spirits liquor stores. The one in Attleboro is a converted grocery supermarket larger than your average Hawaii Foodland. It has 40 rows (running the depth of the store with side and back walls all walk-in coolers) of spirits inside, with the deepest offerings in vodka, rum, whiskey and more. It also has the largest selection of beer and wine in the area: http://www.yankeespirits.com/

    The largest collection of wine in New England is located at the Stonehedge Inn & Spa in Tyngsboro, MA. near the New Hampshire boarder. The inn wine cellar stocks over 100,000 bottles of wine and the wine list is quite extensive. They sell wine by the bottle or case lot. They have a monthly wine dinner supported by U.S. and international wineries. The restaurant has excellent food and afternoon high tea; American Automobile Association Four Diamond Award and Grand Award for Outstanding Wine Lists – Wine Spectator Magazine: http://www.stonehedgeinnandspa.com/

    Reply
  • May 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm
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    @ Ken-san – I checked out some photos of Yankee Spirits store. Looks exactly as you described. Amazing.

    The owner of Ewa Pantry said he’d LOVE to have at least 25,000 square feet of floor space, but just can’t afford it right now. The real estate prices here in Hawaii obviously hinders most liquor stores from expanding to such large scale like they can do on the mainland. I forget what reason he explained, but Danny said he’s paying on average about 3 times higher per square foot in lease rent compared to many of his neighboring tenants in Ewa Pointe Marketplace because of “the type of business it is”. Something had to do with entertainment. I’ll ask him again about that to confirm the reason.

    So this puritanical “Blue Law” prohibits the sale and/or consumption of alcohol typically on Sunday, the Sabbath. I’m not aware of Hawaii ever having the blue law enacted in the past. I don’t remember it ever enforced.

    Stonehedge Inn is a GORGEOUS property. Daily room rates (for two) are $550 to $650 per night as part of their Spa package.

    @ ArnyB – Have you ever been to BevMo!? Looking at photos of the store, it looks very well organized and reasonably priced, not to mention HUGE. Definitely on my checklist on the next hop to Cali’. I’m curious if something like BevMo! would do well here in Hawaii. They say typically big box stores in Hawaii outperform the mainland locations by a large margin in gross sales. I’ve heard the Home Depot here in Honolulu is or was at one time the highest grossing Home Depot in the nation. Wow! We’re just a crazy consumer-driven society here in the Aloha State. I wouldn’t doubt the same thing could be said about Costco and Walmart stores here in Hawaii.

    As for the loose bottles on the floor in the narrow aisles, I was amazed when Danny told me accidents like that in the store happen very rarely. Unbelievable. You’d think it’d be a normal occurence, right? Nope. Not according to Danny. And that was one of the first questions I asked him! Believe me, even I was nervous walking around back there!

    @ pat – I can’t drink hard liquor if you paid me. I’d just throw it up. Both my palate and stomach will completely reject it as foreign. Even in mixed drinks I have a hard time with it unless it’s something really “fru-fru”, like say a Lava Flow or Pina Colada. Shots? Forget it.

    Sorry to hear about your 1920’s vintage Okolehao being lost by a hurricane (Iniki?).

    Here’s an interesting story from the Honolulu Advertiser about Okolehao…
    http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2003/Jun/01/ln/ln05a.html

    Reply
    • May 1, 2013 at 5:58 pm
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      We just got a BevMo here recently due to recent state legislation passing. Got my BevMo card the first day! Selection is very good and between that, World Market, and Trader Joes, I have no problem getting my drink on.

      In my younger years in California, I used to frequent Liquor Barn. The name does not imply ‘cozy’ nor ‘quaint’. It was huge!!!

      I have no doubt BevMo would be succesful there. However, I would hate to see any big box liquor store enter the Hawaiian market because wondeful places like this would simply go away.

      ….and you can’t get a Trader Joes in Hawaii because it would take away my ‘go to’ omiyage one stop shop.

      Reply
    • May 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm
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      Iwa. But sounds like we have similar opus.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2013 at 8:31 pm
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    How does the selection compare to Tamura’s wines on Kam Hwy in Aiea?

    Reply
  • May 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm
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    Pomai,

    As a note:
    The world’s largest “off-license” liquor store as certified by Guinness Brewery, Dublin, Ireland is Daveco Liquors, 16434 Washington St, Thornton, CO at an enormous 100,073.1-square-foot in size (“off-license” means it sells for consumption off the premise).

    When you see Ewa Pantry Danny ask if he would like to stock that space! It’s nice to know there is an Ewa Pantry for shopping!

    Reply
  • June 7, 2013 at 11:30 pm
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    Pomai,

    I never knew the Blue Laws prohibited the consumption of alcohol on Sundays, and I’ve lived in Massachusetts for nearly 35 years! LOL I guess they gave up on that one long ago, just like they finally allowed some supermarkets to carry alcohol. Believe it or not, the Blue Laws also prohibited ANY stores from being open on Sundays, which was a real pain in the neck. But now stores can do business – just not before noon – and we can actually buy alcohol – but only in liquor stores – on Sundays. Let’s hear it for the 21st century! *eye roll*

    FYI, the food at the Stonehedge Inn is top-notch, too. We’re such fans of the inn and spa that we stay there every year, even though we live less than 30 minutes away.

    Reply
  • June 8, 2013 at 9:32 am
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    RAGS, well, the neighbor islands of Hawaii must have some unheard of “BLACK LAW”, for “lights out”. If you ever go to say, Maui or the Big Island (especially Hilo), you’ll find many businesses are closed by 6pm daily. Some earlier than that! Especially in the older sleepy towns. Plan on shopping on a holiday? Forget about it! Many restaurants that aren’t bars are closed at 9pm, tops. Some also earlier than that! I wanted to go to Sam Sato’s (a really local and VERY popular restaurant featuring dry noodles) in Wailuku this past Memorial Day Monday, and they were closed! WTH?!!!

    With the higher cost of living on the neighbor islands, I really don’t get how the owners and employees can afford that. I guess there really isn’t enough demand to stay open later/earlier/on holidays, which I find hard to believe with so many tourists running around.

    Reply

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