No. 8: Mrs. Ching, or Ching Store (2000)
Back in 1989, when I worked at the Three Lives and Company bookshop on West 10th Street, I made friends with a boy who would come in a couple of times a week and buy several books and then stand and talk about all kinds of things. This was Billy Neil, who came from Hawaii and was living for a time in New York. He was nothing if not exuberant, about everything, and when he left New York finally, we stayed in touch. He became a marvelous landscape artist, among his many talents, and ended up back in Hawaii, in the up-country of Maui. On visiting him, one of the main attractions was the wonderful Mrs. Florence Ching, who ran a general store not too far from where Billy lived. Thanks to her affection for him, I think, Mrs. Ching granted us an interview, which to this day is one of my favorites from all the Goodies, even though it is also one of the shortest.
From my Dear Readers letter: “The old-world store, with its distinctive aromas, local specialties and peculiar customs, is fading into obscurity for infuriating reasons we don’t have to tell you. We get very happy when we come across one still left. The plum of them all is Ching Store, in the little town of Keokea, in Hawai’i. It’s just a couple of doors down from Henry Fong Store. Henry Fong Store is old too, but it doesn’t have gas or Mrs. Ching in it. Everybody knows Mrs. Ching and everybody loves her. She is a fixture, and everybody (except a few ladies of a certain age we heard calling her Florence) calls her Mrs. Ching. She is elegant and twinkly at once, and respected by all.”
When I last checked, Mrs. Ching was doing just fine and still running her store and gas station.
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Photo of Mrs. Florence Ching in front of Ching Store by Romy Ashby