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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, August 31, 2000


We love high culture--cinema, music, dance--
but weekends are also made for shopping.


By Ken Ige , Star-Bulletin
Jan Rowan, Akebono's mom, stands next to a sculpture
of her son in front of Sumo Connection.

Small shop big
on sumo goods

Nadine Kam

In Japan, where sumo's grand champions are accorded royal treatment, getting a piece of Akebono is unheard of. Fans wouldn't even be able to bypass the skibito, or bodyguards, to speak to the yokozuna's mom.

Here, where Akebono grew up as Chad Rowan, it's a different story. At the Sumo Connection in Waimanalo, fans from Japan flock to buy T-shirts from his mom Jan for $19.99 and up.

Jan had long dreamed of operating a dress shop for "big ladies," but found a niche in the shirts, sumo books and sumo-themed hakata dolls priced from $9.99 to $50.

When Japan visitors show up, Jan said, "I take pictures with them, I sign shirts for them. One guy bragged that he sold a shirt in Japan for double the amount," she said.

She ran her shop for three years in Kapahulu before moving closer to home in Waimanalo. The move was serendipitous. The shop now attracts more visitors on circle-island drives. And Jan also has found a local market for her plus-size muumuu, rayon dresses and aloha shirts, which she says are gone "as quick as we get 'em."

Also popular, a golf "bento" package featuring Sumo Connection logo golf tees, towels, a bag tag and golf balls for $24.99; rubber-soled straw slippers for $12.50 to $15.50; and carved wood bowls from Maui and Lanai, starting from $29.99.

Every once in a while, sumo enthusiasts get lucky, spotting Akebono when he comes home to visit. He's posed for pictures with fans, but doesn't sign shirts. Said Jan, "I feel that when he's in town, he's here to rest."

Sumo Connection: Waimanalo Shopping Center, 41-1537 Kalanianaole Highway. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 259-8646.

Shopping Fanatic is a Thursday feature dedicated to the pusuit of shopping finds beyond the big malls.

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