Little Big Store
story by Christine Hansen
photo by Chris McDonough
Even if you’ve been to the USS Arizona Memorial, you might not know that the film shown during the first part of the toura lavish, half-million-dollar productionwas paid for with revenue from the Pearl Harbor National Monument Bookstore, an unassuming 900-square-foot shop tucked away among the buildings of the Arizona Memorial complex. Small and insignificant though it may seem, the bookstore brings in an astonishing $6 million a year. It is a primary revenue stream for the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, which restores historic architecture and preserves oral history throughout Hawai‘i and the Pacific. The AMMA also funds the War in the Pacific National Park in Guam and the Arizona Memorial Park in Saipan. Closer to home, AMMA supports Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Moloka‘i. At the Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, bookstore revenue pays for museum cases, wayside exhibits and educational programs.
How does a little bookstore do so much? Its success is partly due to its unique memorabilia, found nowhere else: models of the USS Arizona, signed posters, sets of gold coins that commemorate the seven sunken ships at Battleship Row off Ford Island. The store also has a resident historian, Daniel Martinez, who collects oral histories and develops unique books and DVDs that preserve the memories of the Pearl Harbor survivors. For example, the remarkable volume by a Japanese pilot, Zenji Abe, which narrates the attack from the Japanese perspective. There’s also Honolulu Prepares for Japan’s Attack by local survivor Rodney T. West, M.D. West was born on Maui and graduated from Punahou School; his book describes his role in the disaster relief preparations which took place in Honolulu for eighteen months before the 1941 attack.
With bookstore revenue, AMMA also sponsors the Pearl Harbor Survivors Project, which preserves the memories of survivors. Six of those survivors volunteer at the bookstore, sharing experiences with visitors and teleconferencing with schoolchildren worldwide through the unique “Witness to History” program.
The valiant little bookstore is about to claim another victory: A new, 2,000-square-foot expanded bookstore will open in December 2009.