At Aloha Warehouse in San Francisco’s historic Japantown, co-owner Edgar Dang spread his love of Hawaiian music and culture—one ukulele at a time. This winter, Dang unexpectedly passed away in his sleep, at age 56, but his vision and legacy will live on.
Dang was born in Kobe, Japan, on August 3, 1958. His father, a Chinese American merchant marine, grew up in Maui with a family who had lived in Hawaii for three generations. The Dang family relocated to San Francisco when Edgar was young, but spent summers on Maui. In 2005, they opened Aloha Warehouse, bringing Hawaiian clothing, handmade leis, and culture to the neighborhood. After retiring as a regional manager for Sprint Nextel and the Good Guys in 2007, Dang went to work at Aloha Warehouse full-time, but with a renewed mission to make it the source for Hawaiian ukuleles. Leah Dang tells the San Francisco Chronicle that her brother hand-picked every ukulele in the store and fostered relationships with makers such as Kamaka, Kanile`a, and Kala.
Following the news of Dang’s death, Bay Area uke players paid their respects with a kanikapila (impromptu jam session) at Aloha Warehouse.
Tributes and messages of support appeared on Facebook and online forums like TheUkuleleReview.com, where luthier and founder of Hawaii Music Supply Andrew Kitakis shared a song by uke composer John Nash dedicated to Dang.
Kitakis wrote: “John [Nash] was telling me how he bought this Kanile`a from Edgar. I suggested we tribute a song to him on it.
“I really valued Edgar as one of the few true enthusiasts. He was genuinely passionate about having quality ukes, and there [are] only a few people I share this bond with. He was a really nice man and he left us way too soon.”
The Dang family plans to continue selling ukuleles at Aloha Warehouse. Dang was interred in Hawaii with his parents, and is survived by his two sisters and two daughters.
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