Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Maui surf brand
leases more land

Honolua Surf Co. is expanding yet again and will become a bigger tenant at the Shops at Wailea.

"We're moving the family store into a bigger space," Vice President Randy Blumer said. Work is underway with June 10 as the targeted opening date of the new family store. Hiring to add retail staff is also going on. "We're always hiring staff," Blumer said.

Honolua will keep the existing space for its surf- and ocean-lifestyle-related apparel and accessories for women and children and will rename it "Honolua Elua" -- elua means "two" in Hawaiian.

With the soon-to-be-added shop in Wailea, Honolua will have eight locations on Maui, two on Kauai, one on the Big Island, three on Oahu and one in Las Vegas for a total of 15.

The Vegas shop is at the Desert Passage, a mall that surrounds the Aladdin Hotel, Blumer said.

Blumer and Honolua President Tom Knapp met in southern California where Blumer was a retailer and Knapp was a wholesaler. In 1995 the two bought "the old Hobie stores ... one in Kona and four on Maui," Blumer said.

"We took those over and then we changed the name. I moved here permanently and started off. Everything seemed to be working well so we expanded the concept," he said. Knapp has a home on Maui but lives primarily in California.

The company also stages nonprofit surf meets for keiki and women and the "Honolua Surf Co. Legends of the Bay" surf contest. The "bay" in this scenario is Maui's Honolua Bay, from whence the company draws its name.

Like other retailers, the Honolua stores carry well-known surf brands such as Billabong and Rip Curl, "but our brand is exclusive to us," he said. "You can't get our product anywhere else in the world."

Except, of course, on the company's Web site at Online orders comprise only a small percentage of the company's revenue but the business "is still better than I anticipated," Blumer said.

"People come to our stores and leave," he said, but the site is "a way for them to follow up, ask questions, address issues and order more."

Aside from revenue generation, the company quickly saw the Web site as a customer satisfaction venue; two full-time staff members address e-mailed inquiries from site visitors, not all of them about the store or its wearable wares.

"People want to know how the surf is, what hotel to stay at, it's really an information center and it's a full-time job, answering all those questions," he said.

He doesn't consider the two full-time positions an unanticipated consequence, rather, "business dictates it," Blumer said. "It keeps customers happy."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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