By: Daniel Tossounian
When I ventured further down Maunakea Ave. I could not help but notice that
the earlier moribund desolation I had noticed in the summer and fall of last
year was in fact giving way to more robust scenes as scores of pedestrians
seemed eager to spend their money on the goods and services to be had in old
Chinatown. The various stores and shops …still partially closed to inside
traffic nevertheless likewise had a more energetic air about them as if to
confirm that the long Winter of covid was finally receding and giving way to a
hopeful and vivacious Springtime of a post pandemic reality.
I entered a shop called Feng Shui Arts and Gifts and upon passing the
threshold immediately had my senses immediately inundated with sensory overload
as every possible nook cranny, wall
and available space was chock full of every possible nick knack…for lack of a
better word that you could imagine. Chinese calendars, jewelry, jade amulets, good
luck tokens, backscratchers, exotic tables, chairs, and colorful vases lined
the walls. In addition to this were little wooden hand toys, decorated fans,
exotic plates, cups and beer mugs, Chinese board games, eastern looking chess
sets, and dinner dining sets …all with an eastern flair were on display for
the eager purchaser…and is just a sampler as a more accurate accounting of
the store’s inventory would take the better part of a workday.
I saw several active customers milling about the narrow showroom, which was
another sign that
the mercantile stagnation of the covid crisis was showing signs of abatement. A
distinguished gentleman who identified himself as Michael Wu, sole proprietor of
the Feng Shui Arts and gifts, granted me an interview which I was all too happy
to take advantage of.
Feng Shui Arts & Gifts 1023 Maunakea St. Honolulu, HI 96817
Me: Ahh can you tell me a little about your business and why you decided to
come to Hawaii?
Ok, well I came here since 1985. Over thirty-five years…time flies.
Me: Yes, it does. Ok well you are from China?
No I’m from Taiwan.
Me: Oh, I got it, well that’s Not China depending on your political point of
Me: Well, was Hawaii the first place in America you came to, did you come here
from someplace else?
Yeah Hawaii was the first place I came to.
Oh, ok what did you do when you came here?
Well at first when I came, I was in fast food.
Me: Ah ok you started with fast food?
Yes, fast food and then I decided to have my own business. It was about 1991.
Me: So, what would you call this kind of business?
I call it a retail shop.
Me: Really? but you have things here that cannot be found anywhere but in China
It’s more like specific items. Or you may call them lucky items or feng shui
Me: To be honest when I walk in here, I am thinking far Eastern items, not
European or American things.
Yeah yeah, our things prefer something having good luck, making money, health
happiness …that kind of thing.
Me: Ha-ha yeah ok I get that feeling. Well, I am going to have to get something
My items are all focused on those things.
Me: So, would you say your customers are off island visitors or residents?
Residents are the most. People really like these kinds of items; they use it on
decorations…or maybe the items can psychologically help them when they are
needing good health or help. So that is incredibly positive.
Me: Interesting, ok you say you got into this business in 1991?
Yeah, I’ve been located in China town since 1991 and in this building location
already over seven or eight years.
Me: So, you are a very established and successful enterprise.
Ahh yeah ok, ha-ha.
Me: I mean you are not a startup or a new business at all.
Yes, we’ve been through a few crises over the years.
Me: Well, let us talk about the covid crises. The pandemic hit here like a
tsunami. How did you handle it?
Oh yeah… oh yeah. I had to shut down. Government made us all shut down. But
they provide PPT loans which helped the business to survive yes.
Me: Can I ask what percent was the drop off in revenue?
Oh man…at least fifty percent.
Me: And when do you think it started to comeback …the business?
Ah it started around January, February this year. People started coming back
after they got the vaccination and they felt more confident. So, the people and
business started coming back more and more slowly and now there are tourists.
Me: So, you are confident you are in recovery now? Yes, yes, I am.
Me: Also, I would like to ask if it was savings that helped you get through
this? Another small business owner I interviewed said capital was essential.
Well ha-ha the government loan really helped there. It helped get us through.
Me: Ok then and let me ask this…you are in a room full of luck and luck
charms. Did this luck rub off and help you? Ha-ha
Yes ha-ha, it helped a lot. When your luck is not smooth, you can come to me,
and I will give you help and luck charms …ha-ha.
Me: I think this is the best place to be in a disaster!
Me: Well, any last piece of advice for other small business owners?
Just hang in there I think the economy is going to get very improved in 2021,
next year is going to be a lucky year.
Me: Well, that is your prediction, and we will hold you to it …. thank you