Text by Lisa Yamada | Images by John Hook
A few blocks from the heart of Chinatown in Honolulu, just past a makeshift booth that sells cheap cigarettes and a store filled with dresses covered in plastic, is curiosity shop Hound and Quail. Inside, hard-to-find objects from the ghoulish to the bizarre, including globes, medical supplies, anatomy models, and skeleton keys, are stacked in an organized chaos sort of way. A taxidermied wolf stands watch over it all.
How the shop’s owners, Travis Flazer and Mark Pei, crossed paths is only slightly less macabre than the vintage wares that line Hound and Quail’s walls. “We met initially on Glen Grant’s haunted tour of Honolulu,” Flazer recalls of the outing in 2004 that took them by such haunted sites as ‘Iolani Palace, the Hawai‘i State Library, and Kawaiaha‘o Church. “I volunteered to be the guy who got hit on the head by a spirit,” he says. Flazer has a habit of excessive volunteering—to a fault, he admits—and is quick to pitch in on the machinations of others, including Pei. Says Pei, “I’m probably the instigator between the two of us. I’m like, ‘I want a shop—’” and Flazer interjects, “And I’m like, ‘I’ll help you build your shop.’”
Ever since they met, the two have channeled their shared love of all things weird into owning and maintaining what they describe as “creative outlets.” With both holding rigorous full-time jobs (Flazer is the assistant technical director of theater at Punahou School and Pei is a pilot based out of Honolulu), their shops have always operated on passion, and thus, limited hours. The duo’s first foray into shop keeping was Area, a mid-century modern furniture store open just one day a month in Chinatown on the neighborhood’s popular First Friday. However, after Pei lost his former job at Aloha Airlines, they were forced to close Area’s doors. “In 2008, the recession hit big time,” says Pei, who was unemployed for nearly a year. “Nobody was spending money. … Airlines were folding, and we couldn’t survive, so we shut it down.”
When the economy bounced back, Pei and Flazer opened Hound and Quail in 2011 in a two-story walk-up on Kapiolani Boulevard. No longer able to find vintage mid-century furniture, they switched gears, filling their shop with smaller goods that Pei sourced from flea markets and antique shops while on layovers around the world. But the size of their quarters, which amounted to something of a walk-in closet, quite literally began to cramp their style, so they launched the hunt for a new location.
In early 2014, they stumbled upon the Chinatown shop. “It was kind of a derelict space on a derelict end of the street with people camped out with carts,” Flazer says. “But we chose to come back to Chinatown because if we were going to continue to do this, I wanted to be part of a community.” With Pei’s creative direction and Flazer’s background in set-building at Punahou, they transformed the space into an urban wonder—it’s easy to forget you’re in Chinatown upon stepping inside. The shop even came with such creepy features as a grand staircase that leads nowhere and an eerie basement that they reimagined as an art gallery.
In addition to monthly rotating art exhibitions at Hound and Quail, Pei dreams of hosting events like small dinner parties, wine classes, or even taxidermy workshops. Eventually, the two hope the space will be a gathering place for the community, as well as an inspiration for others. “When is it ever a good time to do anything?” Pei asks. “Just try it, and if it doesn’t work, you’ll recover.”