It all started at a small agency for
Calif-Asia Co., Ltd in the late 1930s. Calif-Asia Co., Ltd
exported rattan furniture to the US and had a small agency
in Hong Kong. Chan Kai Wa, one of the few Chinese fluent in
English at that time, worked as the manager of that small
agency under a Caucasian boss. And that, it seemed, would
be as good as things could get for Chan.
The onset of the Second World War changed
things altogether. Chan’s Caucasian boss was captured
and jailed during the war. Chan was left to run the business
on his own. His boss fled Hong Kong as soon as he was released
from jail at the end of the war.
An eye for
Times were tough but Chan and his wife,
Leung Po Wah, decided to capitalize on their skills and business
experience. In 1947, Chan Kai Wa Co., Ltd was established.
With Chan’s fluent English and Leung’s business
acumen, Chan Kai Wa Co., Ltd soon became a profitable business.
During the 1940s and 1950s, they operated
out of a small godown at Hoi Tan Street. Leung was frequently
at the godown checking the quality of the rattan furniture
and constantly coming up with new ways to churn out business
faster and smarter.
In 1964, the business outgrew the small
godown and moved into an eight storey building at Tong Chau
Street. The second generation of the Chan family joined the
business in the 1970s. In 1978, the business changed its name
to Kai Wa Designs Co., Ltd. Chan Kai Wa passed away but Leung
continued to guide her sons in running the family business.
Kai Wa Designs expanded beyond rattan and ventured into wood,
iron, bamboo and seagrass furniture.
In 2003, the third generation of the
Chan family joined the business and it became Kai Wa Kreations
Co., Ltd. It is now headed by Wing Chan, the son of Chan Kai
Wai. Wing is joined by his daughter, Caroline Chan and his
son-in-law, Danny Iskandar. Leung Po Wah still comes into
the office each day to boost morale. This new team will continue
the legacy of Kai Wa and bring beautiful furniture into the
homes of many.
A page from the
Chan Kai Wa catalog, circa 1960s
Leung (in white tunic at left)
at the Hoi Tan Street godown
The Tong Chau Street headquarters