In It For The Long Haul

The haul2hi showroom features some of IKEA's most popular items CHRISTINA O'CONNOR PHOTOS

The haul2hi showroom features some of IKEA’s most popular items CHRISTINA O’CONNOR PHOTOS

Husband and wife John and Jane Murao were in college when they got their first studio together. It was, Jane recalls, a cute place, but trying to furnish it proved difficult — it was impossible to find items that provided the kind of storage they needed that also suited their style and price point.

“I joked with him and I said, ‘Oh, we should just go fly to IKEA and buy a bunch of stuff and bring it home,'” Jane recalls.

Of course, a couple of students didn’t have the funds to do that. But about a decade later, they turned Jane’s off-the-cuff comment into a full-fledged business: In 2013, they launched haul2hi, a service that provides shipping of IKEA furniture to the Islands.

Through the years, the business has seen significant growth: The couple initially launched haul2hi out of a storage unit in Waipio, later moving to a small space tucked away in Kalihi. And most recently, they moved into a street-front shop in Chinatown, where they’ve been since October.

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“I have a love for IKEA — I love their products, and it saddens me that they are not in the Islands,” Jane says.

“There are a lot of great stores (in Hawaii), don’t get me wrong, but there is a piece of the market missing. There is a definite need, there is a niche market that is not being filled for modern storage-saving furniture at an affordable price point.”

IKEA, Jane says, fills that void — and the couple wanted to bring that type of product to Hawaii.

Haul2hi’s new Chinatown location resembles a mini IKEA showroom, complete with a few separate “rooms”: a kitchen and dining area, a couple of living rooms, a bedroom, a child’s room and a workspace. It’s stocked with desks, an entertainment center, dining tables, couches, coffee tables, bookshelves and more.

“A lot of the pieces that we try to put on display are (IKEA’s) most popular pieces,” Jane explains.

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And she should know. Jane and John travel to various IKEA stores on the Mainland every couple months. They make sure to frequent stores in various cities to ensure that they’re getting a comprehensive overview of what’s available.

While scoping out pieces, haul2hi also keeps the needs of their local audience in mind, and a lot of what you will find in its showroom addresses the needs of Hawaii residents in particular — things like extra storage in order to fit into smaller spaces.

And if you don’t see what you like in the showroom, haul2hi can access anything that IKEA sells.

Plus, haul2hi also offers space-planning services to help customers solidify product selection and placement.

“An everyday person might be overwhelmed with the idea of trying to figure out how to organize their space,” Jane says. “We can help them in figuring that out.”

Prior to opening haul2hi, Jane was the coordinator for education program Hawaii History Day, while John has a background in IT and accounting and still works another full-time job. But haul2hi is their passion project.

Their move to Chinatown already has allowed them to grow their business — there’s been more foot traffic, for one — and they’re excited to be in such a central location.

“Chinatown has such an amazing community — all of the other stores and businesses really look out for each other, and there are a lot of events that help to highlight local businesses in the area,” Jane says. “And it’s really important when you are a small business that you work together.”

They aim to one day expand the shop.

“I hope to have a little mini IKEA at some point,” Jane says.

For John and Jane, their own journey in finding furniture has come full circle: Now they often help people who face the same dilemmas they’d had in college.

“This business has been a great way to bring access not only to myself, but also to my family and friends and other people in the community so that we can take advantage of having nice things at an affordable price,” Jane says.

THE HAUL2HI SHOWROOM IS LOCATED AT 1148 BETHEL ST. AND IS OPEN FROM 10 A.M. TO 4 P.M. TUESDAY-SATURDAY. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL 462-9544 OR VISIT HAUL2HI.COM.