Wednesday, March 17, 1999
By Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Wendell and Charlene Kwan have turned part of
their Kaneohe home into a showroom for the FILA
shoes and athletic apparel they sell. The Kwans have
also donated thousands of dollars worth of apparel
and footwear to Hawaii high schools.
Kwans off on
the right foot
The husband-and-wife teamBy Cindy Luis
sponsor a number of prep
teams with footwear, apparel
IF the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn't fit, Wendell and Charlene Kwan will make sure they will find one that does.
And they will try to find that elusive purple or off-color gold to match a school's color. And they will attend games to support a team wearing their products.
As the independent sales representatives for FILA U.S.A., the Kwans are in the business of satisfying their customers. But as The Kwan Company, Inc., the husband-wife team are in the business of satisfying the community needs.
Their generosity has translated into thousands of dollars in athletic apparel and footwear for high school teams in Hawaii. Their company sponsors the boys' and girls' basketball teams from Kalaheo and the girls' basketball teams from McKinley, Waiakea and La Pietra.
The Moanalua boys' basketball team is one of 10 teams in the country sponsored through FILA's pilot high school program.
The Kwans were a sponsor for last year's state high school tennis tournament. They've helped out the Waianae and Waialua football teams as well as Hypersquad, a hip-hop dance studio, and the Pearl City Community Youth Group.
"The cost is substantial, but it's a win-win situation for us," said Wendell Kwan. "It's something that we feel is important in terms of supporting the community and in terms of our business.
"We're putting the brand out in the public eye. In the soft retail market, we look to grass roots for getting our brand more visible by putting our logo on teams and organizations."
Wendell Kwan's affiliation with the Italian-based company goes back several decades to when he was a teaching pro and tennis coach at Kalani High School in the 1970s. He was sponsored by FILA and began outfitting his Falcon teams in the company's apparel.
Some 13 years ago, he and wife Charlene took over as the Hawaii independent sales reps. They service over 250 retailers in Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Palau and American Samoa.
As widespread as their business has become, they haven't lost the personal touch that is epitomized by their home office. It is literally that as the Kwans have turned part of their Kaneohe house into a showroom worthy of the best malls.
On three walls are displayed dozens of shoes, from basketball to cross-trainers to racing flats worn by elite marathoners. A bedroom-turned-closet is filled with nearly 2,000 pieces of apparel: jerseys, shorts, jackets and sweat pants. They do not sell directly but work through their retailers.
"I think it makes for a very professional atmosphere where customers can see the products instead of looking at a catalog," said Kwan.
With the cutbacks in high school athletic budgets, the Kwans are flooded with requests for sponsorships. While not every coach that walks through the door will get one, they might walk out with a very good discount rate.
"We wish we could sponsor everyone, but we can't," said Kwan.
The criteria for sponsorship is multi-faceted. The Kwans sponsored a team in the Haili Volleyball Tournament made up of former Wahine players because "they were highly visible athletes like Robyn Ah Mow, Joselyn Robins and Chastity Nobriga," said Wendell Kwan.
"When we decide on a team, we work with the coaching staff," said Charlene Kwan. "There's humbleness involved. We talk about their program, their needs, where they have been and where they are going. Being the state champion is not necessary.
"It's about what we can do together to make it better for both of us. It's a two-way street."
Sometimes, it's more of a freeway. The Kwans admit they are open, 24 hours, seven days a week.
On one particular day, there was a call from Kapaa High confirming an order for shoes for the girls' basketball team. A half-hour later, a retailer dropped off shoes and bags for the Radford girls' basketball team that Wendell Kwan would deliver later that day.
"I have a simple philosophy," said Kwan. "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you perform well. That's what we're here for. To make them look good. The rest is up to the coach."
The Kwans can be contacted at 239-1450.