From Transistor Radios to Bicycle Meters: the Yuen family and Kendy Enterprise (堅力實業) and Dayton Industrial (達騰工業)
York Lo: From Transistor Radios to Bicycle Meters: the Yuen family and Kendy Enterprise (堅力實業) and Dayton Industrial (達騰工業)
Left: Kendy portable radio from the 1960s; Right: Dayton group founders Jack and Daisy Yuen with their son Paul (Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, 2012-10)
While the general public in HK might be familiar with Andrew Yuen Wai-man (阮偉文) from the society/entertainment pages, most are probably less familiar with his father Jack Samuel Yuen (阮家傑), a pioneer of the HK electronics industry who established Kendy Enterprise, one of the early manufacturers of transistor radios in the 1960sand built Dayton Industrial with the help of his wife and children into one of the world’s leading OEM manufacturers of micro-electronic products such as bicycle meters, heart rate monitors, ABC watches, sensors and parts for smartphones over the past half a century.
Jack Yuen came from an industrial family which operated the King Chung Engineering Works in Shanghai in the early 20th century. His father San-Dow Yuen (阮神鐸) was born in Shanghai in 1901 and went to the US to study at Richmond University in Virginia in 1920 and entered Columbia University the next year to study mechanical engineering. San-Dow married Swedish AmericanLilian Rosen while he was a student and as they began to have children, he had to drop off to support his family as a cab driver and a cook. (The Flying Tigers Poker Payoff, C.O. Lamp)San-Dow eventually graduated from the Ford Institute of Technology in 1928 and returned to China to take over the family business while his family stayed in New York where his wife worked as a maid for actress Alice Brady before joining him in Shanghai in 1934. Sandow joined the KMT government during the War and worked in various senior engineering roles until heretired in Taiwan in 1966. Jack’s older sisters include Dorothy Yuen (阮導汝, “Dottie”, 1922-2010), Edna May Yuen Wang and Gloria Yuen Liu. Dottie worked with the Flying Tigers during the War andwas romantically involved with US military intelligence officerJohn Birch (1918-1945,the American anti-Communist organization John Birch Society was named after him after he was killed by Chinese Communists) before marrying Colonel Richard H. Wise in 1948. After divorcing Wise, Dottie marriedaccountant Harald Leuba and then after Leuba’s death, she married Clifford Phipps.
Jack was born in New York City in 1929 and grew up in Shanghai. He returned to the US in 1949 and served as a private in the US Army before working for General Motors in New Jersey as a mechanical engineer. In 1958, he married Daisy T. Yuen (吳嫣蘭), who was studying education at NYU after earning his B.A. from the University of Toronto. Jack’s father in law Ng Kwok-huen (吳國煊) was a metal dealer in Hong Kong who operated Hon Hing Hardware Ltd out of 61 Wing Lok Street which was incorporated with $1.5 million in capital in 1954 and dissolved in 1970.
The couple returned to Hong Kong in 1958 and founded Kendy Enterprise which was one of the first electronics factories in HK and began making 6-transistor radios in 1962 under its own “Kendy” brand. The firm launched its first cassette tape recorder in 1968 and first five in one stereo home music center in 1973 and first three in one portable music center in 1978.
Picture and article of the wedding of Jack Samuel Yuen and Yen-lan Wu (WKYP, 1958-10-7)
Facing intense competition from Japanese players such as Sony and Panasonic, the Yuens established Dayton Industrial in 1972 to develop other products outside of radios. The first product launched by Dayton was timers for refrigerators which were exported to Australia but soon the firm pivoted to bicycle meters and landed Procycle from Canada and Schwinn from Chicago as customers for stationary bike meters. Over time, the product range expanded to wired bicycle computers (1978), wireless bike computers (1984) and the firm also added its first European clients in 1986. Unlike Kendy which had its own brands, Dayton had chosen to stay behind the scenes, serving as OEM and ODM manufacturers rather than investing in building its own brands.
As of 2012, Dayton had over 1000 employees servicing over 60 customers across the globe. Despite their advanced age, both Jack and Daisy remained hands on with their business at the time, working Monday through Friday at the plating and plastic injection molding facilities in Shenzhen.
Jack and Daisy have five children and four of them work for the family business including Paul Anthony Yuen Chung-man (阮重文)and Andrew.
Left: Dorothy Yuen Leuba; Right: Andrew Yuen (left) with his wife Yvette Yung and her father Richard Yung on his wedding day in 1996.
This article was first posted on 15th February 2021.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Transistor radio manufacturers in Hong Kong
- An Emerging Industry: Hong Kong’s transistor radios, 1962 Government trade bulletin
- Proposed world-wide radio-telephonic system for Hong Kong, newspaper article 1938
- Q+A 40 Sakura Radios, manufactured in Hong Kong?
- Holga Cameras – Universal Optical Industry / Universal Electronics Industries – production information needed
- The Rise and Disappearance of Kin Son Electronic (建生電子)
- Wah Mei Electric (華美電器行) – Leading Distributor of Electronics from the 1920s to 1960s and related firms
- Asia International Electronics Ltd (亞洲無線電工廠)
- Pro-Quality Electronic (寶業電子)
- Conic (康力)- HK Electronics Giant of the late 1970s, early 1980s
- George Baker – an American Pioneer of the HK Electronics Industry
- The Electronics Industry of Hong Kong: an analysis of its growth 1959-1969
- Peter H.T. Woo (胡孝清) – Father of the Hong Kong Electronics Industry