Parts Retail Shop
Japanese Tuning Influence
Approximately ten years ago, Honda customization was entering a painful transitional period. The hardcore Honda enthusiast seemed to be steering away from wacky headlight conversions and molded body lines, and instead searched for a new coat of arms; one that highlighted factory body lines and basic upgrades to attain a sanitary appearance that they felt would never go out of style. The only problem; sourcing the parts necessary to create this simple style stateside was difficult, and the powers that could supply the intensive demand were few. During this era, while internet message forums were still in their prospective infancy, a tiny upstart with an intriguing name was but a blip on the radar. The newcomer's idea was simple; offer an online classifieds program that would act as a pipeline, bringing in new and used parts from Japan and, in turn, satisfy the masses. Log on to their website today and you'll find a "who's who" of modern day import performance. The tiny upstart that the doubters paid little attention to ten years ago is now a powerhouse in an ever-changing industry.
I spoke with Adam Luong and Kenneth Li, co-owners of Wek'sos Industries about their company's roots, its current state, and the direction they're heading for the future.
Rodrez: What's up guys, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Why don't you start by filling us in on who works here at the Wek'sos office.
Ken: Adam and I are the co-owners of the company, and we have James, Brian, and Viet who make up our sales group. We're a small team, but I think we work really well together because we all share similar philosophies and a vision of how we should operate our business and maintain our reputation.
Rodrez: Give us a little history on the shop and how things got started, as well as the origin of your company's name.
Adam: Well, Wek'sos originally started way back in 1999. In the beginning, it was just a Classifieds forum that people would use to post and sell their hard to find parts from Japan. We actually started selling used JDM parts on the website as well before that whole craze hit the online community. Additionally, we did photo shoots and featured cars on a monthly basis for our forum members to have something to converse about. Then, from about 2002-2005, it seemed like JDM parts were being sold left and right by just about everybody, so the mark up and profits on these parts were very minimal. It got so bad that we just completely stopped selling used parts altogether. In 2006 we decided to try out the retail side of the industry and started selling new parts with an emphasis on quality customer service and reliability. Those were things that we had all looked for as customers.
Ken: And after being online for so long, we made the move to a retail store front that opened its doors about four years ago in Santa Clara. For about the last year, we've been here in our new San Jose location.
Adam: And about the name; way back in early '99, me and a bunch of friends were partying in Korea Town, Los Angeles. We were at this Korean bar, and everyone was taking shots left and right. One of our buddies couldn't hang and didn't want to take his last shot. One guy at our table shouted out, "C'mon man!! Don't be WEAKSAUCE!!! Take your shot!!" I thought to myself at that moment, "HAAA! I haven't heard that term in so long..." Once we got back in to the Bay Area, I decided to register the domain name weaksauce.org since ".com" was already taken. The first t-shirt design had the phonetic dictionary spelling of weaksauce which is spelled "weksos". The name was pretty universal and I linked it to the classifieds website and featured cars since I didn't really know what to do with the name. From there, it just took off.
Rodrez: At your original location, how small was Wek'sos during those early days? How big do you see things getting in the future?
Ken: Man, it was small!! When we first opened our store front, we had just one little display case of random accessories. Gradually, our presence in this industry grew and our reputation started to become more solid. At this point, I would say we're definitely thankful that our business is growing at such a steady pace, especially in this economy. As far as the future, I think Adam and I have pretty high expectations as to where we want to be. We always remind each other that we can't get comfortable with what we've accomplished so far, or the situation we're at currently. We have to continue to work hard toward all of those endless possibilities.
Rodrez: Give us an idea of the typical customer who visits your shop. Also, where is the majority of money generated; online, or in the store?
Ken: Honestly, we get all kinds of walk in customers. Although our niche is within the Honda and Acura market, a lot of car owners with other makes and models pay a visit to our showroom, which is nice to see. It really motivates us to be a more diverse company when it comes to offering or specializing in different products. I'd have to say that online sales are by far our strongest source of revenue. We get a lot of orders generated from just about everywhere, especially the east coast and even internationally.
Rodrez: What major accomplishment have you guys made that really stands out? And on the flip side, what major mistakes have you made that you've either learned from, or still regret to this day?
Adam: I'd say that our greatest accomplishment would have to be the loyal customer base that we've managed to achieve. We really do pride ourselves on the fact that our clients are not only returning buyers, but essentially an extension of our family and friends. Some of our closest customers who questioned our reliability in the very beginning now even have our personal cell phone numbers! We treat everybody in this industry exactly how we would like to be treated as buyers, and I think that's what separates us from the next shop.
Regarding mistakes and regret, I wouldn't say that it's a major mistake, but we should have come up with a more aggressive marketing and networking program from the very beginning. Not being able to attend all of the events on the East and West coast hurt us quite a bit. Being able to meet our customers face to face and network with new people definitely would have helped with increased business.
Rodrez: Is that why you guys have pushed so hard to make Wek'fest such a success?
Ken: Yeah, that, and I think it has a lot to do with focusing on what the general public wants to see in an event. Aside from just having a showcase of cars, we also took into consideration the actual quality of cars that people would expect when they come to our event. On the other hand, we also wanted to offer something that catered to all types of vehicles and makes. We've done our best to avoid leaving out anyone with a quality build, regardless of what type of vehicle they own.
The way we market this event is also another reason why we have had great turnouts in the past. Whether it's via various social networking sites, posting on message boards, or sending our fliers to customers and other shops around the country, they all tie in together.
From the first event we had last year to the second one that just recently took place, I think we have established the fact that Wek'Fest is a show where you can have fun and enjoy seeing some of the best cars from this side of the country. I think all of these reasons have helped to build momentum as we continue to host Wek'Fest shows in the future.
Rodrez: Speaking of your annual event, where do you see Wek'Fest going in the future? You've obviously outgrown the parking structure. Is there going to be a new location, or do you guys want to stay there and keep it at the same size?
Ken: Having the event in the Japan Town garage has become an annual tradition. We did realize that from this past event, we've definitely outgrown the venue. On the other hand, hosting an event in an underground garage provides a different atmosphere compared to most of the other shows. We'd like to keep this event there to also maintain the same amount of cars attending this annual show. We're staying focused on "quality over quantity" and that's another reason why this particular event has been so successful. However, we do have plans to host other car events at different locations in the near future. But for now, SF Wek'Fest will be held in San Francisco Japan town until the roof falls off!
Rodrez: Is there a chance we'll ever see a second or third Wek'sos shop in a different region?
Adam: Hey, anything is possible. But do we see it in the immediate future? Not quite yet. We will expand as much as possible without having to open up a second or third location. Most of what we supply to our customers can be done at just one location. However, if it ever comes down to it and the demand is there, we'd do it!
Rodrez: You've got a strong foothold in the market now, but how stiff is the shop-to-shop competition in NorCal?
Adam: First off, competition is good! What most people outside of NorCal don't know is that a lot of us work with one another on advertised prices. We try not to undercut one another in pricing, since it's like a partnership with all the shops in the Bay Area. But again, competition is healthy and can make things interesting. Also, from a consumer standpoint, shopping is fun.
Rodrez: thanks for the time fellas. Any final words?
Ken: THANK YOU to the people out there who have been supporting our group. A part of the reason we've always remained so motivated as a company is largely due to our loyal customers, supporters, friends, family, and vendors. We are grateful and humbled by the amount of growth we've seen so far. We'll do our absolute best to continue providing the best service and shopping experience for years to come.