Spaces: Indich Collection

Article by Lennie Omalza, Photos by David Croxford

While traveling abroad in the winter of 1979, former Indian philosophy professor Bill Indich was approached by Tibetans with a business venture: selling Tibetan rugs on the U.S. Mainland East Coast. Though he declined the offer, he kept the idea in the back of his mind until he moved back to the Hawaiian Islands in June 1980. Soon after, he opened Indich Collection, the only company in the Islands that carries thousands of rugs made specifically for the Hawaii market, according to Indich. Read More...

Bill Indich of the Indich Collection sits on a stack of rugs in his recently opened Ward Avenue store. A large version of the best-selling Hawaiian rug, the Monstera leaf design, is hanging over his right shoulder.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin

Isle rug seller finds success by design

By Heather Tang, Star-Bulletin

"The popularity of Hawaiian rugs has given his business a big lift"

Bill Indich's handmade Hawaiian rugs are sending him on the carpet ride of his life.

Since introducing the locally designed rugs, company profit has increased 20 percent annually, said Indich, owner of the Oriental and Hawaiian rug seller, the Indich Collection. Growing demand has even yielded a recently opened second store for the 20-year-old Oahu company.

"I'm sitting on my dream, own my own property and sell carpets. I love this business," said Indich.

What began in February 1997 as a small venture aimed at meeting demand for a simple alternative to Persian carpets has grown into the company's most popular line. Hawaiian rugs comprise about 50 percent of total sales at the company's Gentry Pacific Design Center and recently opened Ward Avenue locations. They provide an informal and affordable product for customers, says Gwen Nagata, the company's general manager

Indich said he set out to develop a contemporary rug for Hawaii residents.

"Local folks didn't like the Persian rugs because they were too formal. The market was already flooded with Chinese rugs, so we focused on creating a Hawaiian rug, something local people could relate to," he said.

Sales in the first six months were lackluster. Advertisements listing them as "tropical design rugs" drew poor response. However, due to space constraints for the heading of a newspaper advertisement, the name was re-worded to "Hawaiian rugs."

The response was amazing, says Indich. The next few days had "the phones ringing nonstop. People started calling like crazy," he said. "The name change was pivotal. "

Since that shipment of 12 Hawaiian rugs, the company now sells about 100 of the Nepalese-produced rugs a month, according to Indich.

Hawaiian rug prices range from $180 for a 2-by-3-foot rug to $5,000 for a 10-by-14-foot rug. Customers also can choose from 25 different designs and 60 different color variations.

Local graphic designer Kathleen Sato and Indich's wife, Susan, create motif designs including Hawaiian flora, animals, petroglyph, and tapa.

The most popular rug is a $957 5-by-7 foot laua'e (Monstera leaf) design, with Indich selling about 10 a month.

The success of the rugs enabled Indich to reach his long-term goal of opening a second store in April.

Hoping to satisfy mainland and overseas demand, his company also plans to sell via the Internet.

Dealing without a middleman for importing and manufacturing helped the company maintain sales during Hawaii's economic slump.

"We're able to cut costs through big volume and big capital. Modern communication also makes it easier," said Indich who maintains daily contact with his buyer in India and factory in Nepal. Two hundred workers in a Nepalese factory exclusively produce Indich's Hawaiian carpets.

"It's a very labor-intensive business that comes down to approach. Whatever it takes, we serve the customer," said Indich.

Such a commitment to customer service seems to be working. Repeat buyer, Meg Moore, recently furnished her home with five Hawaiian rugs.

"I like their authenticity. I can walk outside and see a maile leaf and then an exact replica on my rug. It's like bringing the outdoors inside," said Moore, an eight-year Maui resident originally from Connecticut.

According to Nagata, most rug buyers are first-time homeowners looking for modern, affordable rugs. Hawaii transplants as far away as Japan and Canada, such as Bette Midler and NFL football players, also like the rugs. Indich also sells rugs to Japanese stores and has furnished the sets of "Magnum P.I." and MTV's "Real World Hawaii."

Indich, a New York City native, and his wife started the business in 1979, selling their stock of 40 carpets out of their Kailua home.

From such humble beginnings, Indich, holder of a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Hawaii, gradually went from an antique collector to owner of a successful business.

"He does everything from vacuuming to taking out the garbage, to finding the best sources for rugs," said Nagata of Indich's hands-on approach.

Today, Indich has an inventory of 5,000 carpets and a staff of 14, including two buyers in China and India.

Asked what he would do if offered millions of dollars for the business, he replied, "I'd just buy more rugs."

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin

After selling traditional Persian and Chinese rugs for 17 years, Bill Indich, of Oahu's Indich Collection, decided to try a different approach. "We wanted to carry designs that were more contemporary," he says, "that would be suited to the newer homes in Hawaii." Inspired by the islands' culture and "bountiful foliage," he, his wife Susan, and local designers developed a new line of Hawaiian rugs (including Calalily, below left). "I use them everywhere," says designer Kathy Merrill (left, in front of Kula Bloom).

Indich keeps his showroom brimming with new designs while continuing to offer traditional styles, including lines from Odegard and Tufenkian. "He has a huge selection to choose from," Merrill says, "and he can get us whatever we want." Just to make sure, they do custom work, too.

© Architectural Digest, August 2002

Good Morning Bill,

My name is Yvonne P., and I am a homesick Hawaiian that has been residing in California for 30+ years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, and your reliable sales personnel for always servicing the needs of my husband and I so professionally whenever we have visited your beautiful stores. Over the years we have shopped at both your Nimitz and Ward locations. Our shopping experiences have always been worthwhile because in total we have purchased six Hawaiian rugs. We are happily astounded at the quality and longevity of our rugs for they look as beautiful today as the day the purchase was made. Family and friends who visit our home always remark on how beautifully our Hawaiian rugs compliment our home decor. In fact, our home has become a snapshot of Hawaii in California.

While on Oahu last week, Darrick Hamamoto and I believe his name was Ruben, were very solicitous at throwing rugs, giving us their expert opinions, and remained patient as we made our purchases while referring to photographs of our home. We bought our rugs Friday, flew home on Saturday, and amazingly, although our purchases had to be coordinated with your Maui location, we received all three rugs on the same delivery on Wednesday. That is definitely customer service maximized. (Or using the local jargon, "No pilikia. Service to da max.").

Our most recent shopping experience was not handled in the store, but most efficiently over the phone with your helpful sales consultant Gwen. (I'm sorry, in my excitement to purchase another rug, I neglected to obtain her last name). My husband and I are confident that our Petro Brown rug will look wonderful in our livingroom, and will support the wear and tear of everyday life. The reason for our confidence is that we purchased this same rug five years ago, and so did our son who lives in San Diego. Unlike our household, our son's supports three young children, a blonde colored labador, and individuals who don't take their shoes off while in the house. UGH! Although I care for my rug lovingly, you truly cannot see the difference between the Petro Brown rug in our home versus that of our son's well used rug. That speaks volumes!

We wish you, and your supportive staff, continued success. Mahalo nui loa for enabling this homesick Hawaiian the ability to decorate my home with your long-lasting and quality Hawaiian Rugs.

Aloha,

Yvonne

Justin

THANK YOU so much for all that you have done to ensure that I, your customer is happy with the final product. Customer service is what builds relationships between the dealer and the client and word of mouth goes far beyond that – your attention to detail is great appreciated.

Mahalo,

Sheila Kuyper