A Traveler’s Taste For The Exotic
By MidWeek Staff
Siam Imports has Thai-style futons, Tibetan singing bowls, Hindu statues and many other exotic things that appeal to owner Kevin Costello’s broad clientèle.
“We’ve got belly-dancing scarves, bed covers, wood carving panels, incense, jewelry and clothing,” Costello elaborates. “We’ve got young students to older people. There’s people with not so much money, and people with a lot of money. I try to keep it like that, and I want to keep as many people as possible happy.”
The Tibetan singing bowl is sometimes used for meditation. The bowl is placed in the palm of the hand, and a small mallet is used in a circular motion on the bowl, which makes a singing sound. Other imports include Buddha images, drums, cushions and tapestries. The 400-square-foot shop carries items from more than 50 small businesses in Thailand mostly, and also from India, Nepal and Burma. He says he’s been dealing with these businesses for many years, and he’s presently dealing with the next generation, so he interacts with the sons and daughters of the companies.
“Word of mouth is how people find out about the store,” says Costello, as he credits his good visibility with the amount of foot traffic.
Utilizing the sidewalk, he displays a sales rack, a mannequin with a dress and some woven basket handbags.
Siam Imports has been at the King Street location for 12 years. He had a second shop on Beretania for seven years until he closed it last year.
Originally from New York, Costello graduated from Chaminade University in 1984.
One of the challenges of doing business, he says, is rising costs.
“Over the last couple of years the dollar lost some value toward the Thai bhat,” notes Costello. “That, coupled with shipping costs, and the cost of goods over there has gone up, so it’s almost a triple whammy effect.
“The economy in Asia is slowing down as they can’t afford to keep inventory on hand. I usually have stuff made for me, and I like to pick up stuff that’s already on hand. So the stuff that’s on hand is less to choose from.”
Costello says he appreciates the support of his wife, Saengdao, who helps out a lot in the store, and sometimes works the cash register.
With four trips a year to stock up the shop, their 10-year-old daughter Kelly, who attends Mid-Pac, has some input on the boutique’s jewelry selection during the summers.
With the help of some part-timers, the shop is open seven days a week. Costello also wholesales some of his wares. He still maintains a 600-square-foot showroom where he has more statues and woodcarvings.
“We bring in unique stuff, make people happy and they tell their friends.”
Siam Imports, located at 2567 S. King St., is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, call 951-7426.
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