2011 SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 4 of 8)

     “My dad worked till he was almost 88,” says Milton Ozaki. “I’m
     65 now, and if I were to retire now, I would be called a spoiled
     little kid.”
     Photo: Kicka Witte

Family-Business Award:
Robert’s of Kauai & Robert’s Jewelry

Personal Service, Loyal Customers

As a child growing up on Kauai in the 1950s, Milton Ozaki’s first job at his family’s store was to wave to passersby who mistook closed doors for a closed business.

“It was the first retail operation on Kauai to install air-conditioning,” recalls Milton, president of Robert’s of Kauai and Robert’s Jewelry. “Customers thought we were closed because, prior to the aircon, the doors were always open.”

Milton’s father, Robert, founded the jewelry and clothing store in Hanapepe in 1946, after learning the ropes from his previous employer, a Czech shoe retailer. Over the next three decades, the Ozaki clan – Milton, parents Yukie and Robert, and sisters Joyce and Marion – worked hard to become leaders in Kauai fashion and jewelry.
Today, the family business boasts one of the state’s largest Hawaiian-heirloom jewelry selections. About 50 percent of customers are repeat timeshare visitors from the U.S. Mainland, while loyal locals comprise the other half.

In response to customers’ requests, the company recently began buying gold. Tuxedo rental is another new service that has kept the company afloat during tough economic times.

“I’ve always been impressed with the way Robert’s has weathered the storm and changing winds of retail,” says Connie Clausen, nominator and a business-relationships manager at American Savings Bank. “Stores like Robert’s, with their personalized service and fine products, are a welcome reminder of slower days of fun, youthful memories.”

From the 1980s to mid-1990s, the company employed as many as 28 in four locations, including the high-profile Kukui Grove Shopping Center. Today, eight employees work in two stores in Lihue and Hanapepe in buildings that the family owns.

“Being away from a busy window-shop environment was better for us, because we could give better customer service for people who sought us out versus walk-ins,” Milton says.

Gross annual sales were expected to surpass $1 million in 2010, thanks, in part, to gold purchases.

Although the invitation is open for Milton’s three children in Washington state to take over the family business, he has no plans to retire yet. “My dad worked till he was almost 88,” he says. “I’m 65 now, and if I were to retire now, I would be called a spoiled little kid.”

-Catherine Cruz-George

Robert’s of Kauai
3837 Hanapepe Road
Hanapepe, HI 96716
(808) 335-5332

 

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