While Brick and mortar stores continue to be popular in the Mariana Islands and elsewhere, shopping online or e-commerce has increased in popularity and additionally as a solution to shuttered stores and reduced customer numbers due to pandemic restrictions.
Two locally-owned apparel businesses that have opened in recent years — GACHA Guam and Smile Child — have adapted to market changes.
Gacha Guam’s name derives from the CHamoru word, gacha’, which means to attain, reach, seize or grasp.
Leslie B. Sanga, owner, founded the business in 2019 after seeing a gap in the market for local apparel businesses that focused on women’s clothing and discussions with Ron Gegato, the owner of another locally-owned apparel brand, Roots and Development.
“He always knew I had a thing in fashion — I was helping style things for photo shoots. So, he asked me if I wanted to do a women’s wear line with him,” Sanga said. “But at that time, I guess I wasn’t ready; [I] never really thought of opening up a brand myself.”
Sanga left to live in California, but returned three years later. She noticed there was a gap in the local market after observing mainly bathing suits offered in stores.
“But nothing for an actual line — a women’s wear line — so, that’s what actually pushed me to start [GACHA],” Sanga said.
According to Sanga, GACHA offers a mix of islandwear, street wear and business casual apparel. She is inspired by runway fashion when designing apparel, and her target customer base ranges from teenage girls to young adults and professional women.
However, Sanga said the clothing is versatile. “I also am trying to put out items that are unisex, that men can use, even though we are primarily a women’s wear brand,” she said.
Kyle T. Perez, owner of Smile Child, was deciding what he wanted to do after graduating from high school.
The idea for Smile Child was conceptualized in 2016, but the brand did not officially start until 2018.
Perez said he was inspired by his friends and family’s encouragement, as well as celebrities and famous designers in the industry, to become a fashion designer and business owner.
“I like to always be positive. Out of my friend group, I’m always the one trying to make the crowd happy or try to make people smile. … I wanted to find a way to create a message or saying on a T-shirt so when someone sees it, they have a nostalgic feeling [and] it makes them smile,” he said.
When Perez attended parties and social gatherings, he noticed that his peers were usually wearing clothing that was black or white.
“Black and white [clothing] is fine and all, but I like to express myself — I like to add a pop of color to what I’m wearing, or don’t go with the status quo,” Perez said.
Smile Child’s target customer base is not limited to any age group; Perez said the brand is meant for everyone to wear, as well as represents Guam in an authentic way. “It’s different, it’s weird, it’s unique — it’s street [wear] mixed with the island,” he said.
Because of the pandemic, pop-up events that Perez was set to attend were canceled indefinitely. One of those events was a collaboration launch party with another locally owned brand, Long Live Clothing Co.
However, Perez said COVID-19 has been a “blessing in disguise” because it allowed him to design more apparel for future brand releases and confirm that he wants to continue running his business.
Jack in the Box is also set to open its second location in Tamuning by the end of 2021. The Jack in the Box franchise in Guam is operated by Jack in the Box Hawaii, which owns and operates 30 Hawaii-based restaurants.
Bojo Molina, a representative of Max’s Restaurant, which is set to open on Guam at the Micronesia Mall, said the restaurant location is still in the construction phase and although work has not stopped, it has slowed down because of the pandemic. mbj