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That Girl: Shelly Hayashi of the General Store

This week’s That Girl is Shelly Hayashi, owner of the General Store on Gage Street – our fave vintage furniture, antique and knick-knack store. Ikea it certainly ain’t!

We chat to Shelly about her favourite places in HK, the best Japanese joints in town and her top tips for decorating your pad in style!

Fill us in on your background and where you grew up. How did you end up in Hong Kong?
I am American and met and married my husband in NYC. I lived there for a number of years and worked in fashion. Then my husband started getting relocated for his job with Ralph Lauren; first to Tokyo then London for 3 years and then here to Hong Kong about 1.5 years ago. I love change and a challenge so was very happy to move to Hong Kong – that and Hong Kong is great for my small kids!

Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in the Mid-Levels; we have really made our home our own by bringing everything with us! I am a collector at heart and only feel at home surrounded by things that remind me of where I have been and the life I have lived. It is my true joy to seek and search in every city I visit. I love being surrounded by memories and things that are very personal to me.

How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
I would say my personal style probably looks a bit “New York” – very black! It’s basic with an edgy twist. I don’t play with colour or print much, so I really rely on a strong silhouette and a good fit. I think it changes as you discover what makes you most comfortable. Now that I am more “mature”, I buy things that I really love and keep them for a very long time rather than buying seasonal pieces that I won’t wear in a year’s time.

Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
Aberdeen Street and Gough Street are my favorite local shopping streets. It is a great way to spend the afternoon, strolling through the wet market for your fruits and veggies, shopping and stopping for lunch at one of the great restaurants in the neighborhood.

What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I am passionate about Sheseido skin care and have been using it for over ten years. And I will trek all the way to the W Hotel on Kowloon for my facials and waxing at Bliss Spa, a habit I formed in NYC and London; I just love their products. I got a great manicure the other day at Fast Beauty on Hollywood Road.

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
Saturdays are a busy day at the shop so I really enjoy speaking to the customers who wander in off of the street. Sundays are strictly for relaxing! I like to spend the whole day with my kids, seek out something new to do in Hong Kong, brunch with friends and focus on family.

What are your favourite restaurants/bars in Hong Kong?
I am a big fan of the great new restaurants popping up like Yardbird. My husband is from Japan so we are always looking for good authentic Japanese – we have found it and go a few times a week to Naozen on Wellington Street – the best spicy tuna roll ever!

What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong?
How could I not say General Store?! We are an oasis off a busy wet market – a contradiction of a General Store in an ancient neighbourhood that is finding its new place in modern Hong Kong. General Store is a space for all creative individuals – artists, designers, photographers, fashion, interiors; I love being in the store, not only because it is mine but also because of all of the creative people I meet every day. It is truly my favourite place in Hong Kong!

What inspired you to start General Store?
I have always had a love of antiques, retail and shopping. When I first moved to Hong Kong, I was seeking out places to shop and realised the aesthetic I love was not really present here. I didn’t know at the time if it wasn’t here because people didn’t like it or if it had not landed yet. It was really an experiment and a gamble. But the city of Hong Kong has been overwhelmingly welcoming and we have met people who share our passion for this aesthetic.

How do you source pieces? How do you decide which items are right for the shop?
My partner in General Store has a gorgeous shop in Tokyo – W Works where we get a lot of our amazing pieces. The antiques are all American and European – industrial and mid-century. They range from rusty old keys to gorgeous Dunbar chairs, industrial Italian factory lights from the 1930s to new Noguchi lanterns from Japan. We are constantly sourcing from the US and Europe and have lots of Japanese new home accessories. We also design and make our own furniture in Japan.

There’s so much going on, hence the name General Store! Sometimes I will get an idea and then need to source, source, source until I find the perfect item – maybe a light or an accessory.

What are your other top places for picking up cool pieces for your home?
I think the best way to memorialise any trip abroad is through their history and their antiques. Before I go on any trip, I research where the antique stores are and make sure to hit a few. It could be Hanoi, Bali or Los Angeles. For me, it is the best way to capture the culture of where you were in a memorable way. Often you can get something that is inexpensive and truly beautiful – what a great way to remember your life.

HK apartments are often small and because they’re rented, we’re limited as to how we decorate inside. What are your top tips for making the most out a small home?
I think so many people in Hong Kong are transient and see themselves here for only a few years. Often they invest in very ‘temporary’ furniture at the beginning and then end up staying for much longer than they planned. Buy the things you LOVE and build your collection wherever you are. There is always a way to bring the pieces you love with you and you shouldn’t stop decorating in a small space.

Any advice for any other budding entrepreneurs out there?
GO FOR IT. So often I wondered if it was the right time, the right concept, the right location. At some point you just have to say YES. Go for it and no matter the outcome, you will never regret working towards a dream.

All photos in the That Girl article above shot by the extremely talented Tim Chang – to get in touch with him, email tim.Chang327@gmail.com

Check out the rest of our That Girls here!

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