A Visit to MONO

I first discovered MŌNO via Jonathan Lo of Happy Mundane and I knew we needed to take a virtual visit here on Design Store(y). I contacted owners Cassy & Dean Song who were more than willing to chat about their Honolulu shop that’s focused on minimalist functional and beautiful design items, specifically items from Japan. I think it’s totally worth a trip to Hawaii and I think you’ll agree…

Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?

Our search for the right spot took a while before we found our space on S. King & McCully. We wanted to be somewhere centrally located, and we feel that this area has a lot of potential to grow. Since we’ve opened, we’re really excited to see other local businesses sprouting up nearby; it’s awesome to be a part of the growing small-business community.


Where did you get the name for the store?

MŌNO (pronounced Moh-no) simply means “things” or “stuff” in Japanese. The idea of opening our own store stemmed from a trip we took to Japan, where we spent countless hours at various shops in Tokyo. Inspired by what we saw, we felt compelled to bring a piece of our travels back home with us. Because of its Japanese influence and the variety of unique “things” we carry, MŌNO seemed very fitting.

Has it changed much since then? How?

We do order limited runs of everything so that we can bring in new items and keep things fresh. Our goal is to bridge the gap between Hawaii and other parts of the world by offering products that are difficult to find here on the islands. We are constantly keeping our eyes peeled for new things to bring in.


What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?

As new business owners, everything we do is definitely a learning experience. I’d say one of our challenges is trying to handle all aspects of the business ourselves, everything from buying, managing and designing to cleaning & maintaining our space. It does help that I’m currently going to school for web and print design, so I try to apply all that I’m learning in school towards our business. There’s definitely a lot of work and stress that comes with opening a new store, but when it’s something that you’ve worked so hard to build and curate, it’s an entirely different feeling.

What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?

The first job I ever got was in retail; I worked at a snowboard shop named “Island Snowboards”. It seems strange to see a snowboard shop in Hawaii, but it was very popular with the Japanese tourists. Over the years I worked my way up to management positions at various retail stores, such as Agnes b. and Diesel.


What’s your favorite item in the store right now?

IMM Living’s Deer Elixir of Life Coffee Mug is one of my favorites.


What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?

Since Hawaii only has 2 seasons (summer and winter), we never had a seasonal theme. At the moment, our focus is Small Design Goods, such as stationery, home, and lifestyle products that can be used all year round. We love to see everyday items rethought and reimagined through design.


Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?

The Unit Portables line from Sweden. Currently, we are the only retailer in Hawaii that carries this brand.


What’s been a consistent best seller?

Mark’s Inc., a line of stationery goods from Japan, has been a consistent best seller.

Does the store have its own line?

Currently, we are working on branding our own line of small goods.


Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collabs coming up?

Nothing set as of yet, but we do plan on doing some pop-up events and exhibits in 2014.


Do you have anything from the store in your own home?

IMM Living’s Alligator Lockjaw Dish… I couldn’t resist the temptation. I also have a lot of stationery products that I use for school.

Visit MŌNO at 2013 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826 and online.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.