Martha’s Store marks 45 years


A 45th anniversary is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, such a milestone is worthy of a grand celebration, complete with celebrity baggers, party balloons, and swag bags.

For Martha’s Store in Garapan, it is about soldiering on. The store, which pioneered the concept of 24-hour operation, is celebrating its 45th year this year. The store opened in 1972 when there were not a lot of stores on Saipan. Since then, it has been a mute witness to the changing surroundings and economic landscape of the islands.

“Martha’s Store was named after my mother. The business started as a bar. But the bar business was hard on my parents’ marriage so my mother decided to close the bar and open a store. It was originally located on Beach Road but we moved to its current location in 1986, in Garapan,” recounts Wyman Rechucher, the third child of Martha and currently the store’s manager.

Wyman’s parents, Sebio and Martha Rechucher, came to Saipan from Palau during the Trust Territory period in the ’60s. When the period ended, many left Saipan but Wyman’s parents remained and they put up a business.

“When my parents put up the store, things were tough in the ’70s. Alcohol was quite new on island and one can say that it like the ‘Western cowboy times’ then. Things were pretty rowdy and the island was still dealing with post-war remnants. That period was the poorest times on island but my parents ventured on.”

“During the ’80s and the ’90s, we saw the economy boom. Martha’s saw and felt this. People had jobs because of the Japanese boom and garment industry and so they had buying power. We were busy and working hard to keep items on shelves. [Since then], the island went up and down economically. Martha’s kept afloat. We saw things at their very worst, and the same things when they became better,” Wyman said.

Now on its 45th year and in competition with many stores, what has kept Martha’s Store going?

“We just don’t give up. There is no secret. Just don’t give up. Nowadays, many stores have sold out or leased out to foreign investors. There are times that the temptation is strong but I am not ready to give up. I will leave that decision to the next generation,” Wyman said.

Martha’s Store’s long marathon is strengthened by its relationship with its regular customers.

“We are the first store on island to open 24/7. We used to get customers from all parts of the island. Now, there is a store in every part of the island. You don’t need to go far for your shopping needs. But our long-time customers are the store’s friends. Regular customers that live in different parts of Saipan would pass several stores to get to Martha’s. We know them by name and that makes Martha’s unique,” Wyman said.

The business has kept the family together. The Rechucher children practically grew up in the store and they all have fond memories of it.

“My siblings and I had a happy childhood. We saw our parents work together. Mom was the cashier and Dad was in charge of inventory and accounting. We all had chores in the store and as kids we looked forward to new stocks, toys, and great treats.” Wyman said.

“Business has kept us together rather than break us apart. My mother, even in her age, would travel from Palau to visit the store. My oldest brother who is also busy running a business in Palau comes over every quarter to see how things are and give advice because he is the head of the household with most experience and success to share. My sisters, one on island and one in the States, are ready to help anytime.”

Martha’s Store intends to keep going and be a part of Saipan’s journey and progress.

“We are always growing with the times and we are currently choosing a direction that we want to go. We are proud of what the store has become.”

Bea Cabrera

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