A happy accident saw the beginnings of a company called Kam Kasuals.
In 1988, Michael (Mick) and Dorothy Aach were in Taiwan with Mick’s father looking at visors to import for his company. A pair of slippers caught Dorothy’s interest. Instead of simply buying a pair for herself, Dorothy had the idea to bring a few of the styles to the Waikiki market as a wholesale supplier. A meeting with the manufacturer later and a business idea had taken root in her mind. She and Mick would nurture and grow that idea into a profitable corporation that changed the landscape of the footwear market in Hawai’i.
Breaking into the Waikiki market was hard work. They finally got their big break when ABC #37 gave them a space in their store to sell five of their styles, including a women’s sandal featuring a big bow and bright colors. They reinvested their profits into the company and quickly grew in popularity. Demand for their product was high.
Although they saw quick growth, the Aach’s worked out of their home for the first eight years of the business doing all the picking, packing and delivering themselves. Finally, they were able to hire help and started importing larger orders to bring their product costs down. Their garage, downstairs area, lanai and pool deck were constantly covered with product and packing material. The couple even convinced Dorothy’s oldest daughter to help with the business by sewing on labels to some of their earlier products.
Eventually, the abundance of product (and the lack of space at home) prompted them to lease their first warehouse in Kaka’ako. That change came hand in hand with additional technology and growth. Dorothy learned to use a computer and they had to hire sales representatives on every island to keep up with customer demand. They made various warehouse locations in Kaka’ako their home from then until the sale of their business to the Wong family of Honolulu, who were one of their many longtime customers.
Now, over 30 years after the Aach’s started their business, the Wong ‘ohana is taking the company into the future while honoring the legacy that Mick and Dorothy have left for them. Although they have big slippers to fill, the Wongs are excited about the opportunity to understand and serve the people of Hawai’i for all their slipper and footwear needs.
*Kaka'ako photos courtesy of Mark Ramelb