Chinatown Holiday Windows

Dec 27, 2016

Whether in New York, London, Paris, or Honolulu, the best holiday windows just make us feel happy. This is Echo and Atlas at the corner of Hotel and Nu'uanu. Wander Chinatown here and check the links to this year's best windows in other cities.
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Chinatown Winter Walk window displays will be up through New Year's Eve.
Credit Miki Lee

Photographs of downtown Honolulu on December 7th, 1941, show Christmas lights festooned overhead all up and down Fort Street.  Stores like Liberty House and the Ritz prided themselves on creating window displays like those celebrated holiday highlights in New York City.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports some Chinatown businesses are re-igniting the tradition through New Year’s Eve.

Each window capsulizes the style of that establishment. Here, Haul2Hi on Bethel Street.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Displays will be up until December 31st.

For shoppers and those who dine out, it’s been an explosion! So many new opportunities debuted recently, International Marketplace, South Shore Market, Ala Moana Center’s expansion, and of course the first new shopping center on Oahu in over 30 years, Ka Makana Ali‘i, in Kapolei---expect over 100 new retailers and restaurants there.

David Segarra, owner of Grondin Restaurant on Hotel, says he and his partners opened in anticipation of Honolulu’s latest coming of age.

“To our pleasure, I think that’s what happening, a nice movement.  All around, not just Chinatown, it’s 

Tea at 1024 on Nu'uanu Avenue.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Kaimukī, Kaka‘ako, New City, all around there are all these great restaurants opening up.  The problem is, the population has stayed stagnant.”

Segarra has heard retail is facing a similar challenge.  With all the condos coming up, you’d think the population must be skyrocketing but latest U.S. Census figures show ten thousand more people left Hawai‘i than moved here from the continent last year.  Those figures do include military numbers, but do the math and know what it means for your favorite shops and eateries.

As 2016’s giant retail wave draws back, a few emerge blinking in the soft neon glow of Chinatown Honolulu, where the community is still banking on neighborliness and creativity to carry them through 2017.  Rona Bennett of Fighting Eel says business was good at their Chinatown location due to their local customer base.  HPD reports a pretty much steady state condition regarding crime this past year thanks to active community policing.  There’s been a slight uptick in activity on Second Saturdays, with family friendly 

Tin Can Mailman on Nu'uanu Avenue.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

DiscoverArt events.  Miki Lee is senior community builder with the Honolulu Culture and Arts District.

“What’s really changing is the character or face of the community.  It’s gone from being blighted to artists to restaurants and bars to retailers.  So there’s this evolution and each one kind of nudges out the next one.  They build from them and they also nudge them out a bit.  Right now we’re in a retail and dining moment.”

The Honolulu Culture and Arts District is working to reinject art into the scene, this time for families, and that’s part of the idea behind this year’s Winter Walk, a listing of Chinatown businesses who have dressed their windows for the holidays. 

“I’ve travelled in the winter and I’ve seen all these displays so I guess in a way we’re hoping to recreate that here.”  Barneys New York commissioned artists this year on the theme Love, Peace, Joy—with amazing windows from Nick Cave and Rob Pruitt, and Matt Stone of South Park.  Tiffany’s sports sparkly and romantic New York settings.  In Paris, Printemps and Galleries Lafayette are usually alight, in London, Fortnum and Masons is always a touch of the past in the present.

The venerable Lai Fong on Nu'uanu has spruced up a bit and is sporting a new sign in gold letters: Lai Fong Collectibles.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

In Honolulu, kudos to the forty establishments touting the season!  Elves cavort in possibly compromising positions in the windows of Citizen Salon on King.  Lacy wood cut outs frame Owen and Co.

“There’s definitely magic.  Some are very romantic and traditional and some are whimsical and a little bit crazy, that’s the beauty of it.”

Surprise surprise Lai Fong on Nu‘uanu has tidied up and re-emerged under the “collectibles” banner. 

Do not miss Hound and Quail’s windows   at the Makai end of Maunakea---in the tradition of New Englandy holidays. Between work and drinks or drinks and supper, Winter Walk is a nice Chinatown wander.

Owens and Co. at Nu'uanu and Pauahi. Pigmented laser cut wood.
Credit Noe Tanigawa