And what they are doing is more than just importing and selling parts. They have a plan, in its infancy, but grand in scale. It all starts with relationships. Edmun believes in doing business face to face, which, in an age of emails, constant cell phone access and teleconferencing, is increasingly rare. In a business with Trans-Pacific ties, it is even more incredible. Edmun, originally from the Philippines himself, asserts that this manner of doing business was a big part of landing the coveted Spoon distributorship. "I go to Japan about once a month, and Ichi (the familiar nickname for Mr. Tatsuru Ichishima, Spoon's president) was here six times last year," said Edmun. That sort of personal, up close working arrangement would be something you'd expect from some of the high level execs at American Honda, but from an aftermarket parts distributor? As we spent more time with Opak, we'd find that level of networking permeated everything – from relationships with customers and partners, to the way they work with the press (in this case, the TOV).
The master plan continues with quality. Edmun grimaces and shakes his head when the conversation turns to the import aftermarket these days. "We've only had one return in the last two years selling Spoon products" he proudly proclaims. "A sticker came off of one our Spoon radiator caps, so we gave the customer a new one." To top it off, Opak sends techs to Japan for training at Spoon HQ to ensure that their knowledge if up to date and complete – that's dedication. Edmun is also proud of the materials used in their line of exhausts and other pieces to fill in the gaps in Spoon's product line. "We use high grade titanium from Nippon Steel." Clearly the JDM motif is in full effect here. Getting right down to it, Opak would rather sell modest quantities of expensive stuff that doesn't break, rather than a whole lot of mediocre (or sub-par) products that require frequent replacement, don't work as advertised and cause customer (and therefore supplier) heartburn.
|Mr. Edmun Laurea interviews driver candidates for this year's Spoon/Opak effort at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill|
So Opak is serious, and they've chosen to take the premium approach when it comes to pricing and quality. Not a bad business model, but not totally unique either. If you've got the resources, it's a great position to take, and several companies already have done so in the import business. But for Opak, the business model is only the stepping stone to credibility – not in the retail business (high quality and a Spoon distributorship go a long way toward granting that), but in the racing business.
In his heart, Edmun Laurea believes that circuit racing is the next big thing in the import business. While series like NASA's Honda Challenge have been successful on the grassroots level, and the Speed World Challenge offers spectacular racing on the SCCA pro-level, he wants to see circuit racing events draw bigger crowds and interest more along the lines of drag racing or drifting. He's not unrealistic about it though, stating, "...we are only in the very beginning, there is a long way to go." But even the longest journey requires that you start with a single step, and Edmun and Opak have already taken several.