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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Sense of family fuels McCully Bicycle


By Robbie Dingeman

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bicycles account for 70 percent of the business at McCully Bicycle and Sporting Goods.

ROBBIE DINGEMAN | The Honolulu Advertiser

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PROFILE: MCCULLY BICYCLE AND SPORTING GOODS

Employees: 35-40

How long in business: The McCully store was incorporated in 1971, but the affiliated family business began in Waipahu in 1923.

Describe your business: The store's core business is bicycles, followed by fishing supplies, but it also carries a full line of sporting goods including gear for tennis, basketball, baseball and soccer, plus shoes, knives and nutrition items. Family member Ali Kessner said: "We try to be a one-stop kind of shop for the customers."

Core strategy: Manager Yukio Yukawa: "Customer service, that's the key thing. We try to make sure that every customer gets what they came in for. We want loyal customers and new customers."

Business survival tip: Yukawa: "Sometimes you've got to streamline the inventory because of hard times." But he says you always make sure you cover all the basics, which means not just a bat and a glove but making sure there's gear for the left-hander as well.

Fun fact: The store sells more than 2,000 tire tubes a month for bicycles.

Recent big thing? A Power Balance bracelet that sells for $30; customers say it helps with their balance.

Find them: 2124 S. King St. Open weekdays 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 955-6329.

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McCully Bicycle and Sporting Goods spun out of a family-run business first founded by Giyei Takayesu in Waipahu as a gas station that also fixed bikes.

Takayesu's granddaughter, Ali Kessner, said her grandfather worked hard for decades, then turned the business over to her father, Buster Takayesu, who took over in the 1950s.

Over the years, the store has become known for its service, selection and competitive prices, even as it has had to compete with much larger chains such as Sports Authority, Walmart and even Kmart.

The store repairs bikes, strings tennis rackets and repairs fishing poles and reels. About 70 percent is bicycles; fishing's about 20 percent; and the rest comes from all other departments, said manager Yukio Yukawa.

"We're not the cheapest on everything, but we are very competitive," Yukawa said.

"We can turn and flex the merchandise to whatever's in season," he said. "We can customize to the customers' needs."

Yukawa has worked for the family business for a total of eight years first as a college job, then leaving to start his career, he worked 11 years at Sports Authority and returned two years ago.

Yukawa said he stayed in touch with the family because of the way they treat their employees as part of the family.

He's proud that he finds himself using some big-box strategies and ideas to keep a local family business thriving despite the challenges of the high cost of shipping. And he sees the business growing as customers appreciate the service they get, from routine maintenance to more extensive work.

Yukawa said he measures the success of the business by the number of loyal returning customers.

"We try to help the customers," he said. "We try to teach our customers how to take care of their bikes and do small adjustments. And we don't charge them for small things like filling up the air. We pride ourselves on that."

The store sells about 500 bikes a month, from tricycles to tandem bicycles, adult three-wheelers and ones that range from less than $100 up to $5,000 for a high-end, special-order racing bicycle, Yukawa said.

Kessner explained that her father, as the eldest of four, sent his siblings to school but set aside his own dream of becoming a teacher or dentist.

A panoramic 1935 photo of a group of bicyclists called the Waipahu Pedal Pushers includes her dad, a young man in the center, and reminds customers of the family legacy.

Kessner remembers the store always being a part of their family life and how customers will still come to the store and tell her stories about her dad, who died four years ago at age 93.

Some recall when they were young newspaper boys, struggling to earn money. And they would come in and tell her that her dad would sell them the bike and then accept payment a dollar at a time or "whatever they could afford" until they paid up.

In the late 1960s, her brother Benjamin returned from college on the Mainland and set up a small shop of his own in Honolulu with bicycles and fishing supplies, that was sort of a branch of the Waipahu store.

Then Benjamin Takayesu the one boy amid five sisters built the namesake store at the corner of McCully and Young. Later, Kessner said the company, which incorporated in 1971, moved to the current King Street location when it outgrew the old location.

McCully is still affiliated with the founding store, Waipahu Bicycle, which now specializes in fishing supplies, Kessner said.

Now, three of the great-grandchildren are working in the store Ryan, Matt and Grant Takayesu.

Kessner said it's encouraging to see a fourth generation on the job. While they enjoy the work, she said they know from growing up in the business that "it's not easy."