Badminton Couple Puts Millions On the Line For Korean-American Badminton Community
They always had trouble finding places to play, so they built one themselves.
South Korea is among one of the Asian countries where badminton is an extremely popular sport. Courts could be found in various part of the county and has produced legends like Park Joo-bong, Bang Soo-hyun, Kim Dong-moon, and Lee Yong-dae, all whom are World Champions and Olympic gold medalists.
However, for badminton couple Bosco and Esther Kwon, the sport beloved by their country was alien to them until they discovered it after moving to America in the 1990s.
Esther Kwon, wife of Bosco Kwon, was introduced to the sport by her parents when she immigrated to America in 1990. Her and her six siblings, three brothers and three sisters, along with her parents played everyday.
“My mother is 83 and she still plays,” Esther said with a laugh.
Bosco, on the other hand, came to America in 1994 after a successful career as an entrepreneur wholesaling shoes in South Korea.
“I sold everything, from sneakers, formal shoes to athletic shoes.” Bosco said.
The couple were unaware of each other until Bosco, who was a friend of Esther’s older brother at the time, went to visit his house one night.
“I was visiting their house and met her. I was interested and wanted to ask her out.” Bosco said.
“My older brother set it all up” Esther said with a laugh.
The two began dating and got married a year later in 1995, they’ve been together for 24 years with two daughters ages 22 and 20.
During the years after they got married, Esther and her family introduced Bosco to badminton, who fell in love with it almost immediately.
“It was love at first sight.” Bosco said.
The couple began to play every morning at a local Korean badminton club in Los Angeles.
“Back in those days, because the club opens at 6:30am. We’d have to wake up at 4:30am to get ready and drive from our house in La Habra to LA.” he said.
“We’d have to drive for 45 minutes” Esther added.
After their morning session, they would go to work, play again later in the day, followed by a lesson with a professional coach at night.
“We were very dedicated,” Esther said
Now, the two are proud owners of SFS Badminton Club in Santa Fe Springs, California, a 240,000 square feet facility with 14 BWF approved floor mats and a full pro shop. Although, the couple are die hard badminton fans, they initially didn’t purchase the property for it.
“We bought this warehouse for our own current import/export business to house our inventory.” Bosco said. “We were planning on building a few courts for ourselves and friends to enjoy.”
While his gym is opened to badminton lovers of all backgrounds, Kwon says they saw an opportunity after seeing the popularity of badminton increasing amongst the Korean-American community, along with more clubs opening in LA county.
“We thought maybe the Korean community needs their own club where they can come in and play 7 days a week, from morning until midnight. So we decided to open a full club” Bosco said.
The pair spend months visiting different clubs in Northern California to research the types of flooring and lights to use. When all was said and done, the couple had poured millions to purchase the warehouse and build out the gym.
SFS Badminton Club opened May 1 and is already getting some traction within the community. They’ve also signed on Yoo Yong-sung, a former badminton pro from South Korea, with two Olympic silver medals under his belt, as the head coach of the facility.
“He’s one of our favorite player from Korea.” Bosco said. “He has really good track record and I’ve know them for last 4-5 years. He’ll give lessons to anybody who wants to take a lesson — he has student ranging from old ladies to young kids.”
It’s no secret that badminton is not as recognized in America compared to sports like tennis, basketball, or baseball. Any sort of funding (if they exist), is extremely minimal, so American players are forced to raise and/or use their own funds to compete. Aside from becoming a coach, having a badminton career in America has historically been unrealistic. With that in mind, when do the Kwons expect to make a profit? 3 years? 5 years?
“10 years, maybe.” Bosco said as everyone bursted out laughing.
“This is an investment for the whole community. I’m not doing this for the money. I still have my business, which can help carry the club right now. Eventually, I hope that this club will continually grow in members and have more kids come train with us. Maybe, we can help create the next badminton star in America.”
Santa Fe Springs Badminton Club
11323 Shoemaker Ave,
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Shuttlers aims to be the premiere destination for Badminton News from around the world.