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Ashley Furniture will return to Hawaii

Article from Star Advertiser by Erika Engle on May 17, 2011

Ashley Furniture, whose Hawaii licensee disgraced the brand and left customers in the lurch in 2006, is coming back with venerable furniture retailer C.S. Wo & Sons Ltd. as its licensee.

The soft opening of two Ashley Furniture HomeStores Thursday will preceed grand openings Friday in former Rooms Hawaii stores at 455 Ward Ave. and 4360 Malaai St. in Salt Lake.

The former Ashley Furniture HomeStore in Waikele opened in 2002 and closed abruptly on Nov. 10, 2006, leaving customers without furnishings they had ordered and paid for in advance.

Customers filed 132 complaints with the state Office of Consumer Protection in 2006 and 2007, most of which were resolved by April 13 or Aug. 14 of 2007. State officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The licensee that operated the Waikele store was "a totally different company," said C.S. Wo Division Manager Daphne Oliveros. C.S. Wo director Michael Wo is a minority investor in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

"When Waikele exited, C.S. Wo was called on to help the national brand take care of the customers that were left hanging," Oliveros said.

Many former Ashley employees now work for C.S. Wo.

C.S. Wo officials do not believe aligning its more than 100-year-old reputation with Ashley is risky.

"Ashley is the No. 1 brand name; it sells the most furniture in the nation. In the world they’re No. 2," Oliveros said.

About 20 mostly local people were listed as principals when the Waikele store opened in 2002, but at its closing four years later the licensees were Michael Cutler and George Norcross, and the store’s general manager was John MacDonald. None were available for comment at the time of closure. Instead, McClain Auctions owner Marty McClain said the licensees told him running the store "wasn’t something they wanted to do anymore," citing "a turnaround in the economy" for the decision to close. The store’s nearly $3 million inventory was auctioned.