A Brand New Ballgame…At The Swapmeet

The Aloha Stadium swap meet is under new management, and it shows — with increased services, new entertainment and improved security

Yu Shing Ting
Friday - July 01, 2005
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Stop by the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and you’re sure to get great bargains, a good workout and even a new tan. But under its new management, Centerplate, the popular flea market located at Oahu’s landmark ball park is about to give locals even more reasons to shop ’til you drop.

A beer garden, Polynesian shows, four portable ATMs, directory handouts, more food booths, beverage carts, picnic benches and standing umbrellas for shade are just some of things to come. But the main attraction is still the more than 900 booths with 700 vendors set up to service the 8,000 to 13,000 customers who visit each day.

With all these peddlers drawing such large crowds, the swap meet system is a win-win for both shoppers and vendors. Admission to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is only 50 cents per person.

David Chen of America’s Funniest Tshirts has been setting up shop at the stadium for more than 15 years. “We work a short week and we have all the customers,” he says. “We opened a store in Waikiki for the last 10 years and we pay higher rent — $5,000 a month — and we don’t get as many customers as we do here at the swap meet. Here at the swap meet we offer more variety to locals and tourists and at cheaper prices because we have lower overhead.

“On a good day, I make over $500. And during Christmas season we make double. Anything less than $200 is considered a slow day for a single booth.”

Aloha Stadium swap meet general manager Vincent Yim
and Centerplate Aloha Stadium regional vice president
Lois Sismar have increased quality and security; top
photo, Alana Daniels, 4, enjoys a shave ice

Centerplate started its five-year contract to manage the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet last September, under the guidance of the state. The company is one of the leading providers of quality food and beverage concessions, catering and machine services for many of America’s best-known sports facilities, convention centers and other entertainment facilities.

In less than 10 months, Centerplate has made positive changes at the stadium swap meet with the goal of satisfying its many vendors and shoppers. It has created a new logo, computerized its operation system, increased advertising, and stepped up security. And there’s been talk of offering a yearly membership card, as well as creating a swap meet website with links for individual vendors to personalize.

“This past summer, a neighboring tourist attraction stepped up its security in its parking lot and this only chased the drug dealers into our parking lot,” says Vincent Yim, general manager. “We had daily car break-ins, so we hired more police officers, but even with more security we couldn’t catch the thieves red-handed.

Adam Berthiaume, 8, is in
pickled mango paradise

“Then we put a couple of our staff on top of the stadium with binoculars and within a few weeks we made several arrests, all in the act. The word got out that the stadium is not a good place to do their crooked deeds. Then we had no break-ins, and we’re still watching.”

At the Aloha Stadium swap meet, you can find just about everything and anything — jewelry, clothes, plants, tools, cookware, furniture, paintings, antiques, wedding favors, school supplies, luggage, ukuleles, food and more. The best part, though, is still the prices.

David Chen has been a vendor at the swap
meet for more than 15 years

“I bought two backpacks, some children’s jewelry and hair accessories, a cell phone case, shave ice and food for less than $55,” says Valerie Valverde of Hawaii Kai, a mother of five who visits the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet twice a year. “You find such great bargains here.”

“We usually come here when relatives are over from the Mainland,” adds Francis Berthiaume, a mother of three from Hawaii Kai. “And we come during the summer to get T-shirts and slippers for the kids before school starts. You can get such great bargains.”

As for authenticity of products sold, Yim says they work with the Honolulu Police Department’s counterfeit division, as well as the legal authorities that represent the registered manufacturers.

The Beltram family, Harold, Harley, Hansen
and Arlene, takes a stroll through the grounds

“We hire several HPD officers every day to patrol the swap meet,” says Yim. “I have been working for both the Ironman Triathlon and NFL Pro Bowl on counterfeiting and trademark infringement for over 25 years, so I am pretty versed in keeping this type of product out of the swap meet. It is also an ongoing training for our staff in the proper procedures in handling this area.

“There used to be a problem years ago. If you worked in the construction industry and somebody were to break into your tool shed at your job site, the big joke was just go down to the swap meet and you’ll find your tools down there being sold. At this point no, that has pretty much been cleaned up.”

It takes about two and a half hours to lap the swap meet comfortably. And there’s also Kam Super Swap Meet nearby on Moanalua Road, which is the oldest swap meet on the island with a garage sale/farmer’s market feel.

At the stadium, it costs $75 for a space (two parking stalls) in Row D, $20 in Row C, or $15 in Row A/B per day. The rates C, or $15 in Row A/B per day. The rates are cheaper if you rent by the month. Hours of operation are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Finana Lolohea knows how to
stay cool at the swap meet

“The D section has been sold out for a while,” says Yim. “Since 1981 the swap meet has grown from a few vendors to its peak in the early 1990s of over 1,100 vendors. Then the bubble burst with the Japanese economy, and now we have about 900 to 1,000 vendors each day.

“Over half the vendors have been doing business here longer than eight years with well over 30 vendors who have been here for over 18 years. Alot of locals think that the vendors here are flyby- night operators, but the regular shoppers know that they are here every week, year after year, and they stand behind their products with guarantees.”

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