KAILUA, Hawaii – Fighting Eel’s owners say customers at their new store in Kailua are happy they can save a trip into town. The women’s clothing boutique has opened its second store at Kailua Town Center in the third phase of Kaneohe Ranch’s redevelopment project. The retailer is leasing 1,300 square feet of space on the Kailua Road side of the Whole Foods Market, which is expected to open in a few months.
“Our customers are super stoked that we are now in Kailua,” said Fighting Eel co-owner Lan Chung. “They are excited to have us here because we are unique among other boutiques in that we design our own brand of clothing. Fortunately for us, there are also many new customers and visitors in Kailua who are discovering us in this location.”
Chung also operates a Fighting Eel store on Bethel Street in Chinatown with co-owner Rona Bennett. The entire collection is carried at both locations to ensure branding is consistent and recognizable. “However, we do carry different accessories for each store – beachy, casual luxury and cool for Kailua and edgy, eclectic and contemporary for downtown,” Chung said. “We also carry our Mini Eel line in Kailua along with children’s books and accessories. We are still learning what our customers in Kailua want so we may carry new things in the future.”
Kimo Steinwascher, vice president of leasing and development of Kaneohe Ranch, said Fighting Eel’s unique brand is a perfect fit for the mix of stores in Kailua. “We always look for tenants who will not only complement our other retailers but also bring something different to the Windward side,” he said. “We welcome Lan and Rona to Kailua and wish them the best with their new store.”
Among the various local designers whose lines Fighting Eel carries are Jana Lum, who designs, silkscreens and sews all her handbags, clutches and wallets, and jewelry designers B. D’Angelo, NattoLee and A. Wattz. Chung said Fighting Eel also scouts the markets and shows on the mainland and that she and Bennett are drawn to many accessories, especially handbags, produced in Venezuela, Morocco and Kenya. “What’s special about these bags is that they’re not only beautiful but they create employment opportunities for people in developing countries and help improve lives in communities there while maintaining and respecting their traditions, cultures and beliefs – meaning you are shopping for a good cause,” she said.
Chung said four additional employees were hired for the Kailua store, and the downtown store manager was transferred there to help with the new location. A grand opening event is planned for January. Fighting Eel debuted in the summer of 2003, and its designs can be found in more than 100 boutiques across the United States as well as on a variety of retail websites.
Kaneohe Ranch manages the real estate owned by the family business entities of Harold K.L. Castle and Alice H. Castle and their nonprofit charitable foundation, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. The portfolio consists of major landholdings in Kailua as well as other properties on Oahu and the U.S. mainland. The Kailua properties include commercial, retail, office, industrial and residential leasehold parcels.