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This past holiday season Pearlridge Center, the second-largest shopping center in Hawaii, introduced a new centerpiece: the Pearlridge Express, the only scale-model, fully-functioning locomotive in the state.

Custom-built by California's RMI Railworks, the Pearlridge Express was unveiled on Black Friday to crowds of excited parents and children. As a statement of its commitment to an overwhelmingly local (as opposed to visitor) customer base, a portion of the proceeds from each $3 ride ticket benefited the Hawaiian Railway Society, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving the history of railroading in Hawaii.

Sales for the month of December were up 5.8 percent, which is not insignificant in a tourism-based economy that has been severely impacted by the events of Sept. 11. Of 24 merchant categories, 15 posted increases during that month. Pearlridge holiday happenings were featured in some 80 minutes of local television airtime and 54 print articles -- invaluable positive publicity that has been valued at over $60,000. Over 23,000 riders enjoyed the Pearlridge Express during the holiday season, starting new traditions that tie families explicitly to the mall. And Pearlridge Center was able to reiterate its commitment to the local community through a $21,000 donation to the Hawaiian Railway Society because of the proceeds from the highly successful Pearlridge Express.

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