Behind the counter and below a bold OHF sign stands Danni Hong. Though the petite, smiling woman looks totally unassuming, she is actually a powerhouse, moving mountains with her shop, Oh, Hello Friend. The 29-year-old's business began as any good millennial's would–with a blog by the same name. And in a precisely 21st-century manner, that blog led to a retail space, workroom and her own line of paper goods.
Hong's current mission is to support artists, locally and across the globe, by showing as many patrons as possible that the goods you find at big-box retailers are never as wonderful as those made by hand. She's slowly building a community that recognizes craftsmanship and the artistic ability within themselves.
That mission was not something Hong planned on, however.
"I never took art classes," Hong says, "but my family always had their own business."
The La Habra native grew up on her tippy-toes at the counter of her parents' tourist shop next to Disneyland; some of her earliest memories are from the sensory overload of Los Angeles' wholesale district and ringing up customers. "But when it came time for college, I still didn't know what I wanted," she says. Hong's mother made the wise suggestion that she attend the Art Institute because she "always liked fooling around with text on the computer."
Little did Hong or her mother know that typography would take a huge leap in popularity. She soon found a rapt audience for her adorably written words online. "I think the post that got things rolling was about the little notes I wrote my husband when he was having a tough week," Hong says. "There's something about that honesty and sitting down to handwrite a letter that grabs people."
After that, "I guess I just hustled." Hong started small at local craft shows, selling her cards and handmade jewelry. "I was so scared," she admits, "but I remember sitting in the car afterward and counting up my earnings and thinking, 'This is awesome!'"
Eventually, Hong followed in her parents' footsteps and opened a retail store. Laughing, she says, "My family actually said, 'Don't do it!' But I had to know for myself."
Instead of struggling, Hong quickly expanded her store to offer workshops. While Oh, Hello Friend has candle-making, calligraphy, weaving and other crafts, Hong also pushes for social events that enlighten the community. In January, she held a mini-seminar on human trafficking. On the opposite end of gravitas is a forthcoming mixer at which people can get together, have snacks and write letters.
"More than anything, this venture has been about giving people encouragement and inspiration," Hong says. "I think that's why people are drawn to it. . . See!" She points to the storeroom floor, where a decal reminds everyone, "You Are Exactly Where You Need to Be."