ukulele chord shapes banner

Interview with Smiley Kai of Ukulele Source

Sep 30, 2008 ~ Smiley and Janet Kai are the proud new owners of Ukulele Source, one of San Jose’s few ukulele stores. They are currently carrying Koaloha, Kanile’a, and ‘Ohana ukuleles. Thank you to Smiley who was kind enough to answer some of my questions about their store.

Hippie Guy: What inspired you to start an ukulele related store in San Jose?

Smiley Kai: The idea first came to us when Herb Jr was doing his workshops in San Jose, and people would call to ask where they could buy an ukulele. There are no stores in the bay area dedicated to ukuleles. We started out by taking a few to the workshops and concerts to sell, and it kind of took off from there. It took us a while to find a suitable retail space, but we did, and so far so good! We are fortunate to have the support of the local Japantown business community and the warmth they have shown us – they are all great neighbors!

HG: What does your store offer to ukulele players?

SK: Choices, we carry a wide range of ukuleles from $130 to over $1700. I think once a customercomes in and sees all the different styles and models, and being able to play them is something you can’t do on line. I think being able to check a ukulele out in person and listen and play them is worth the visit. Before I opened the store, I had a woman come to our house to purchase a KoAloha concert. I had four for her to choose from. It took her over three hours for her to make up her mind. But in the end, she was very pleased. It’s being able to offer that kind of service that makes it worth it to me.

HG: If a beginner comes into the store, what ukuleles would you recommend for them? Do you offer any entry level ukes?

SK: For entry level, I would probably recommend one of the Ohana ukuleles. It sounds great and is well made, and affordable. Unless someone is absolutely sure they are going to continue with the ukulele, that’s what I would recommend. Unless, they are like me, and want the very best, then of course, I would recommend KoAloha or Kanile’a.

HG: With ukulele players located all over the world, will you be doing any mail or over-the-internet orders?

SK: Even though we hope to have our web site up soon. I don’t think we will be doing any online sales. One reason for opening the store was to give people the opportunity to have a choice. There are dozens of places online to buy an ukulele. Of course, if store sales came to a snail’s pace, then maybe that is something we would have to consider. One thing we are currently looking into though is online lessons. We’re trying to work out the details now.

HG: Where are you located and what is your contact information?

Smiley and Janet Kai
Ukulele Source
599 N. 5th Street
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 998-2640

Store Hours:  Tues – Friday 4 to 7, and Saturday from 11 – 5. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Hippie Guy with Smiley and Janet Kai in their booth at the Wine County ‘Ukulele Festival

Check out ‘Ukulele Source’s web site: