Like other big cities in the world, Hong Kong has many hidden, un-google-able mom-and-pop stores that you’d only know if you live in that neighborhood or hear from a friend’s recommendation. The Arts Book Co (139 Caine Road) is one shop like that for those living in the Mid-Levels area. It’s part knic knac, part stationary part art supply, with some party stuff as well, almost everything a preschool teacher or crafty parent would wish for. Something you wouldn’t expect from just reading the name!
The store is two minutes walk from Bean’s school so I pop in there almost every week – I admit I’m a bit addicted to it. I just love to find out new stuff he has and imagine what type of toys/craft ideas I can create for her! Besides the usual stationary like pens, notebooks and color papers, Mr. Than and his wife stock all sorts of quirky things I hardly see in big-name bookstores or stationaries: Beautiful cut-out felt stickers in shapes of flowers, leaves, ladybugs, butterflies – ideal for decorating wall or cabinet spaces, or stick-on art projects. Versatile ping-pong balls that have lasted us for over two years. (N still loves holding a ping-pong ball in her hand all the time, it fits perfectly in her little hand and gives her a sense of comfort. Her other favorite activity is scooping the balls with a big spoon – a practical life skill endorsed in the Montessori approach). Sticks that I don’t know the use for yet, but throw them in our sensory tub anyway J (I think they’ll be great for math exercises when Bean is older).
If you have a craft project in mind, you can pop in there
and pretty much grab everything in your checklist: large-sized foam boards and cardboards, color papers, felt fabric, paints and brushes, glitters, sequins, feathers, glues. Plan a party? There are balloons, party blowers, and if you feel ambitious you can scoop up the collection of felts and color papers for some unique DIY decorations! I recognized a lot of these supplies in Bean’s school next door – all teachers there seem to be a fan of Mr. Than’s shop.
The shop is small and cluttered, though, not very easy to maneuver if you have a stroller in tow. Sometimes it feels too stuffy, smelling like old cartons and fabrics, not somewhere you want to stay too long with a kid. A lot of things are hidden in the piles and yet many others are not on display at all. Thankfully Mr. Than and his wife both speak good English and can whip out anything you ask for (Velcro tape? Blue-tac? Wiggle eyes?), so you can make your trip short! They accept bulk order too and deliver bulk orders free!
There are many other stores of the same type peppered around Hong Kong I believe – the trick is to stop and look when you are out and about. You can also find out a lot from the resourceful mommy network here too! Here are some that I have found recommended on Hong Kong Moms – not guaranteed with the exact same offerings but how different can they be right J
- Sam & Co stationary on Stanley Street (near the Yat Lok roasted duck and Holly Brown)
- Man Fung, Household Store, 13th floor, Coda Plaza (McDonnell Road, next to the YWCA)
- Artlands, 3/F Lockhart Centre 301-307, Wanchai (comprehensive listing on their website!)
Happy shopping and creating!