The East side of O'ahu is home to a vibrant local community and a relatively unknown surf scene. Countless barrels, airs and hacks have gone down here with no cameras watching, and that’s how the locals like it. The uncrowded lineups are a reward for those that live on the East side of the island, nestled beneath the majestic Ko’olau mountains. From Waimanalo to Laie, you’ll find consistent year-round surf as well as world class surf breaks that come to life under the right conditions. Some of these breaks are hidden from plain sight, some are so far offshore you wouldn’t know they exist. If you do find your way out there, you may discover an easygoing and unpretentious group of surfers that welcome respectful and considerate visitors…characteristics similar to those who call the Windward side home.
Since 1991, T&C Surf Shop has been servicing the Windward surf community and local shoppers via the Windward Mall in Kaneohe. Kamehameha Schools is the landlord for Windward Mall, a local favorite shopping center on the East side. The beautifully designed center features a unique collection of more than 100 local, national, and one-of-a-kind stores, restaurants, and services making it a one-stop-shop for all your shopping and entertainment needs as well as a gathering place for the Windward communities.
Similar to our five other O’ahu locations, T&C Windward has all you need for any season of apparel, as well as hardgoods, bodyboards and accessories from T&C Surf Designs and leading surf and skate brands like RVCA, Billabong, Salty Crew, Catch Surf, Sector 9, and Penny Skateboards, to name a few. But beyond the merchandise is the backbone to the T&C Surf ‘ohana, our dedicated management and staff. All store location managers have been with T&C Surf for well beyond a decade and some going on nearly 40 years. The Windward store is no exception. Store manager, Celeste Keohokapu, has been at the surf shop there since 2004 and assistant manager, Fran Na-o, came on board in 2007. Since then, this dynamic duo has been a mainstay at the shop, nurturing and growing relationships with customers, clients, and employees from the local community and beyond. “A lot of our store managers have switched between locations but Celeste and Fran have always been with Windward,” remarks director of marketing Lani Isherwood. She continues, “They and their families are woven into the island community and have created a loyal customer base that continues to make T&C their local surf shop.”
Celeste and Fran are island girls from O’ahu’s east and northeastern end and exemplify the ‘ohana vibe that you find on these sides so often. They both have a laid back but no-nonsense approach to their work and the care they put into their customer service is felt with sincerity. The two finish each other’s sentences and stories like sisters or best friends. When asked why they have chosen to work with T&C Surf for so long, Fran explains, “Coming from mainland retail and major corporations to here, I feel like an asset here, I’m not just an employee number, you know, I’m Fran. They make us feel valued and important to the owners.” Celeste goes on to finish, “Yeah, we get a lot of support from the owners on down, so it’s like a big family that looks out for and takes care of each other, and they really value us.” Fran adds, “We all work together so well and we all have the same goal, so when you have the same goal it’s easy to work in the same direction. And like Celeste said, ‘They value us’ and just knowing that makes us work harder for them.” Celeste exclaims, “We all take pride in T&C, and that’s what drives us to be the way we are when we work. I always say this is like my first home, (laughs) my actual home is my second home because I’m always here. And how we take care of our home there we take care of it here. All of us value and take pride in where we work and when you value something you take care of it.”
That care for the customer has not gone unnoticed as the Windward T&C Surf has received several exemplary sales awards in recent years, and is known for their standout customer service. When asked what their secret to success is, the two confess that having each other has enabled them to be their best. Fran explains, “Now that I think of it, of all the store managers, she and I may have worked together the longest. I know there are other manager duos but I’m not sure they have the history that we have. I think that is our secret, to be honest. I know it makes a big difference when we’re on the same chapter, same page, same sentence.”
Over the years T&C has strived to put family first over corporate success, and to value and cherish the island community as a gift and a blessing. Fran sums it up by saying, I’ve worked for quite a few other companies before here, and this one is just special. I don’t know how to describe it but I just feel like I’m supposed to be here. Like, this is what all island girls should do, you know? They should work at a surf shop. (laughs) You know, because I’m an island girl, this is what I do. I sell slippers and board shorts to the locals.” (both laugh) Celeste finishes by saying, “And you feel like part of a family here, it’s not like you’re going to work for some corporation, you’re working to take care of the family.”
Operations Manager, Charlene Calistro, gives praise to her colleagues saying, “I feel proud as I have witnessed the growth of these 2 women, Celeste and Fran, in their retail career at T&C Surf. They share the same principles when it comes to family and work life, which translates to a dynamic team easily. T&C Surf recognizes their talent and heart. Celeste and Fran's commitment and dedication to T&C Surf is valued and appreciated by everyone. They are exceptional members of our T&C Surf ‘ohana and are genuine assets to our company. Celeste and Fran, together with their team, have excelled in providing our customers great service and making them feel like they are a part of our T&C ‘ohana.”
It truly is the people that matter and make our stores and brand successful. Valuing relationships within the company has always been our goal and when you value those relationships they grow and spread to the island communities and beyond.