By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Customers crowded into Ming's downtown store
yesterday to take advantage of a close-out sale. Ming's,
which once had several outlets on the mainland, became
known during its 60 years for quality island jewelry.
Ming's shops once stretchedStar-Bulletin staff
across the nation, and its designs
were sought by collectors
MING'S Inc., which has made and sold classic Hawaiian motif and Oriental jewelry for 60 years, is closing its doors in Honolulu and Hilo.
The news spread word-of-mouth this week, and crowds jammed into the downtown Honolulu store at 808 Fort Street Mall to take advantage of prices reduced up to 60 percent.
Ming's fame with jewelry collectors in Hawaii and on the mainland is due to the late artist Wook Moon, who designed many pieces.
Classic pieces made in the 1940s included earrings, pins and necklaces in the shape of anthuriums, birds of paradise, hibiscus, orchids and pikake. Many of these ornaments were made of delicately carved ivory and silver.
Those classic jewels are not sold now at the store, and shoppers yesterday mostly were gathered around the gold jewelry, with some buying jade pieces.
Reasons for the closing of Ming's still are unclear since the manager preferred not to discuss it, in keeping with Moon's publicity-shy policy since the beginning. Once, when opening a store in New York, Moon declined a magazine interview.
"I think they are just ready to take it a little easier," said Linda A. Lee, vice president of Aon Consulting Inc. and one of the shoppers at the downtown store.
"The quality is the best, and my family has bought things (at Ming's) for 50 years."
Before Ming's opened in Hawaii, much of the quality jewelry available was sold out of catalogs. But Moon hired local people to make jewelry, trained them and helped them open their own businesses later, she said. Moon is even credited with creating many of the tools he used for the carvings.
At one time, Ming's had shops in San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, New York and Miami, and two in Atlanta. There also were four in Waikiki, and shops at Ala Moana Center, downtown and in Hilo.
But Ming's began closing the mainland shops in the 1960s through the 1980s.
Visitors who came on the ocean liners collected Ming's jewelry to take back to the mainland.
The word of Ming's closing spread so fast that the owners didn't have a chance to notify longtime shoppers or put in a newspaper advertisement.
"This is all happening too fast," said a shop manager.