Two Friends And Their Two Closets
Jina Watanabe and Chong Yamamoto created their dream walk-in closet of blouses, dresses, shiny belts, and sparkly jewelry in the second location of their In My Closet boutique at Pearlridge Center uptown.
“We have everything from a T-shirt to an evening dress,” explains Watanabe about the new 500-square-foot shop that has the same atmosphere as their 2-year-old Kahala Mall venue.
“It is In My Closet,” says Yamamoto. “So it is literally small. These are things that we would wear ourselves. And if customers don’t know how to put things together, we are more than happy to help them, and they appreciate that.”
Fresh off a buying trip, Watanabe and Yamamoto picked out special merchandise just for the Pearlridge Center grand opening on Sept. 30.
“We brought in some styles so that our customers will find something different,” explained Watanabe.
Changing things up and keeping it fresh is a big part of the standard operating procedure for the business partners.
“We bring in things once to three times a week,” shares Yamamoto. “Our regulars usually know from our mannequins in the front that we brought in something new. Without our customers, we would never have been able to move forward.”
They do carry a handful of brands regularly including Bobi and Miss Me.
“We make decisions together,” Watanabe says. “We decide what to buy together. Since we’ve been friends together for a long time, it’s not like regular partners. We are like sisters, so we kind of know each other.”
“We bring out our stronger parts,” adds Yamamoto. “We each bring something different to the table.”
Friends since elementary school, Watanabe and Yamamoto have extensive business backgrounds. Watanabe, a St. Andrews Priory graduate and Kalani-Iki resident, managed Ferragamo at Waikiki and at Ala Moana for 12 years, and helped open several of their stores. Yamamoto, a Roosevelt High alumna and St. Louis resident, still owns Kainalu Designs, which has done Hawaiian jewelry concessions for the past 10 years at Duty Free Shops in Waikiki and at the airport, and wholesales to Macy’s.
Watanabe and Yamamoto appreciate the support of all their friends, family and customers - especially Watanabe’s husband Gary and son Dylan, and Yamamoto’s husband Craig and children Christopher, Ethan and Kai.
“We really enjoy what we do,” they say. “That is one of the reasons why we are successful. We love it when the customers tell us they got compliments.”
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