By Nadine Kam
Nadine Kam photos
AirBuggy founder and President Meiko Iida, right, with store manager Seiko Jackson.
If there's a new mom in your life, check out AirBuggy at Waikiki Beach Walk. From the looks at the glitzy new boutique, specializing in jogger strollers and infant apparel, you'd never guess its creator's humble origins.
Meiko Iida, CEO of GMP International, said she wanted to open her first American boutique here as a thank you to Hawaii, where, while on vacation 17 years ago, she first spotted the American baby jogger, and was buoyed by the idea of spreading the joy of walking and traveling with kids. At the time, she was searching for something to do, as a divorcée who was broke without prospects beyond retail work. She set a goal of bringing the jogger stroller concept to Japan.
The covered strollers, in many colors, run about $480.
Speaking through an interpreter, she said she was able to borrow $39,000 through a government program in Shibuya aimed toward helping women establish themselves in business.
With the money, she began importing the stroller to Japan, and they became an instant hit. But in Japan, people pressed her for a lighter, safer and more compact stroller. When the American company couldn't offer the smaller wheels and canopy her customers wanted, she bought a sketchbook and struggled to draw new designs based on customer requests, before traveling to Taiwan on her own to look for a factory that could produce the stroller.
She launched AirBuggy in 2000 and the brand quickly spread throughout Asia, including Tokyo, Kobe, Fukuoka, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul, while also meeting the high safety standards set by the United States, England and Germany.
The boutique is on the second floor at 226 Lewers St., open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Call 533-9070.
The jogger on the right is for pets. A 3-in-1 jogger is convertible, allowing one to carry baby, and switch to a pet or groceries when your child can fend for him/herself.
Among items available at the shop are First Dress infant shirts ($22) with the cutest designs.
DeTour International managing director Takahiro Hirashima, designer of the First Dress line of infant wear. After taking a look around Waikiki, he says his next collections may feature Hawaii-inspired designs.
More First Dress designs featuring swans, elephants and an animal alphabet.
Barettes for older girls.
Keiko Mikuni with her son Falcon, who may be a customer for infant apparel and accessories, including sunglasses, carried at AirBuggy.
Kaiwa's Mitsue Momai serves up drinks at the grand opening event. For a look at some of the food catered by Kaiwa, visit my other blog, Take a Bite.