DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Olive Doo holds a picture of her late husband, James K.C. Doo, who founded Hauoli Sales Co. Ltd. Sons Rodney Doo, left, and Mark Doo, and daughter Lorraine Wong are with her in their family's Beretania Street home.
Just Doo it.
The Doo family's Hawaii business legacy started either in 1896 or in 1902, depending on who's telling the tale.
"I'd probably give you a different date," laughed Rodney Doo, second-to-the-youngest in the family.
Yat Loy, which means "welcome" in Cantonese, was the name of the family's first store. Family patriarch Doo Wai Sing opened the shop around the turn of the century next to McInerny on S. King Street, selling men's, women's and children's clothing and fabric.
Of Doo's six grandchildren, four are still in the retailing or wholesaling business.
The exceptions are first-born Gene Doo, an ear, nose and throat doctor, and Gloria Doo Ayabe, a professional golfer.
Anita Young is a partner in the two Tapestries by Hauoli women's clothing stores with third-born Lorraine Wong. Rodney "Sparky" Doo is the retailer and wholesaler behind his own brand names, such as Locals Only, as well as private labels for other retailers. Mark Doo, the youngest, is a recovering retailer and president of Hawaii Popcorn Co. The company is credited with creating the popular "Hurricane Popcorn" blend of popcorn, mochi crunch, nori and buttery topping.
Yat Loy eventually closed as suburbs started cropping up, according to Lorraine, president of Hauoli Sales Co. Ltd., parent of Tapestries. The parent company was started by her second-generation retailer father James K.C. Doo and her mother, Olive.
Hauoli, James Doo's version of his father's department store, was launched in the late 1950s as one of the merchants in the GEM, or Government Employees Mutual, cooperative discount store; it was a concept he brought to Hawaii from the mainland. Other GEM merchants included the Wo family of furniture retailers and the Kosasa family, known now for its prolific ABC stores.
At their height there were three GEM stores, the flagship on Dillingham Boulevard, in Waipahu and on Ward Avenue where Ross' Dress for Less and Sports Authority are now.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Lorraine Wong looks out of her family's home on S. Beretania Street. It was built in 1902 by her grandfather, Doo Wai Sing. The J. Doo sign stands for her father, James K.C. Doo.
In 1969, James Doo opened the first stand-alone Hauoli store in Pearl City, Mark said. "He used the same concept as the Yat Loy family department store," he said.
Another Hauoli was opened at Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center, adjacent to Longs Drugs and across from the spot where Windward Mall would eventually be built.
"My father's secret was, 'you want to always partner with a Longs,'" said Lorraine. He knew Longs stores were the draw and that Hauoli could benefit, she said.
The second-generation family business was geared to the local market. Olive was the women's department buyer.
"Unlike dealing with tourists, you always have to find something new and different," said Lorraine.
But then retailing changed.
"I think clothing became more specialized," said Mark. "Before, there was men's and women's. Then came young men's, juniors, pre-teens, beach wear, it's hard to do all that within 12,000 square feet.
"The family department store concept became dated. We were very small compared to Liberty House or something like that."
Then malls started cropping up in suburban Oahu. Stores such as GEM and Hauoli were out of fashion. The GEM stores all closed by the mid-90s, Mark said. Both Hauoli stores also had shut down by the early '90s.
Then another retail trend hit the islands.
One of Mark Doo's products, Hurricane Popcorn. Originally sold from a cart, the Hurricane Popcorn Co. now does only wholesale. The product is popular for inclusion in care packages sent to the mainland.
"When the big box retailers arrived in Hawaii, we realized we had to specialize in order to survive," Lorraine said.
Speaking proudly of what she called her father's wisdom, Lorraine remembers his suggestion that the siblings form different corporations in order to pursue their own visions, "because family businesses are tough," she said.
Lorraine and Anita stayed with Hauoli Sales Co. Ltd. but carried out the plan to specialize. There was a short-lived store for teenage girls at Pearlridge called "High Gear," which was switched over to the new Hauoli concept.
"Origins by Hauoli" opened amid other island retailers at Ala Moana Center but changed its name after Estee Lauder introduced a cosmetics line called Origins.
"Even though we were first, the one with the bigger attorney would rule," Mark said.
The store name was changed to Tapestries by Hauoli, "interweaving comfort and style," Lorraine said.
After 12 years as a buyer for his father's company, Rodney struck out on his own in 1981.
"I decided to do wholesale with my Locals Only line," which had been sold at the family's stores, he said. "It snowballed from there, selling to a lot of statewide accounts."
In 1985, Locals Only was picked up by mainland stores in the surf-wear market and at upscale retailers such as Nordstrom.
He opened the Locals Only retail store at Ala Moana in 1994. It carries his four brands, Locals Only; Pineapple Juice, which are reproductions of vintage Hawaiian shirts; Liquid Aloha, a surf line for women and girls; and a new "street urban line" called Urban Hawaiian.
Rodney Doo's most recent stab at progress is the signing of licensing agreements with companies that will sell his lines in Japan.
His two corporations are Wings Sportswear Inc., the parent company of Locals Only, and Yat Loy Co. Ltd., in honor of his grandfather.
The latter is a private label and sewing facility that makes reproductions of the Hawaiian Moon brand of Asian-influenced aloha shirt his grandfather launched in 1920.
The shirts are available locally at upscale retail and resort shops for around $70, but are also exported to Japan where a shirt can sell for as much as $120.
About 95 percent of his brands are made in Hawaii. The other 5 percent is the T-shirts, which are not made here but are embellished locally.
He has seen many brands come and go over the years.
"Fashion is change, and if you don't, pretty much you won't be around," Rodney said.
Market conditions are tough all around, he observed. "Now we're looking at different options. Basically partnering is the way to go."
He's looking at further licensing agreements to represents his lines in the United States and abroad.
Youngest brother Mark started his flavored popcorn cart business with a partner in about 1990, racking up sales at various locations including Windward Mall, Holiday Mart Kaheka (now Daiei) and a kiosk at Ala Moana.
Along the way sales of Hurricane Popcorn took off and wholesale proved a better opportunity.
Now the Hurricane and other flavors are available from major retailers including Longs, Sam's Club, military bases and Costco, where samples of his new line of fried nori are regularly offered. Consolidated Theatres also offer Hurricane Popcorn at its concession stands. Hawaii retailers such as Hilo Hattie import the popcorn to mainland stores.
Calls from ex-pats, visitors and people who have received the popcorn as gifts led him to set up a Web site for mail orders.
"I'm always surprised that people will order because I don't have it on major search engines," he said. "I hired a fulfillment company, because I was packing the boxes and mailing them myself. It took way too much time so I farmed it out."
The siblings have branched out into their own businesses, "but in a way it's like a continuation. We learned the lessons from our father and our mom and we're all in the same warehouse and office," Mark said.
"Rodney got the warehouse and my sisters and I lease space," Mark said. "It works for all of us."
Hearing the four active business-siblings talk about each other reveals a playfulness that belies their ages and a mutual love and respect which honors their upbringing.
They spend a great deal of time with mom, who is now 86, especially since their dad died more than five years ago following a long illness, Mark said.
"We'll tell her as much as we want her to know," he laughed. More seriously, he credited her length of time in the business. "She's very supportive, so we keep her in the loop."
"We've stayed close and managed to work out all our differences. And you know, we enjoy each other's company and compare notes. It's worked pretty well," said Mark, the baby of the family who this year will turn 50.
"I've never outlived that label."
Despite the teasing, the Doos' dad's other "secrets" have spurred each on to success. According to Lorraine, her father's tips were, "You have to work like crazy," and "You have to be persistent and resilient."
None has ever needed a loan from the other.
"I'm sure if the need arose all of us would be right there," said Mark.