The short strip of West Fourth Street, hidden between the bustling Main Street and Washington Avenue, is where you can find Kent and Kimberly Alverson and their unique neighboring stores: Lift, and this week’s featured store, hihi. The store’s quirkiness and anime-roots are evident, not only throughout and within its walls, but from its inviting external appearance.
As the store that “aspires to be the happiest place in Royal Oak,” by owner Kent Alverson’s definition, hihi can bring light and joy to shoppers of all ages. Nothing screams “happy” quite like splashes of bright color in the form of plush toys, t-shirts, candy, and soda. Aside from simply aspiring to create joy in the city of Royal Oak and within all those who enter, hihi satisfies an otherwise missing product line in our city that is inspired largely by Japanese culture and has proven to be hugely successful globally.
“Our products are inspired by pop culture, video games, and anime… We have a large collection of hard-to-find brands and a friendly and knowledgeable team that aims to make our customers’ experience memorable,” says owner Kent Alverson.
As a store unique to the area, hihi is home to plush toys, rare collectibles, seemingly endless Japanese candies and sodas, Sazak Kigurumis (character pajamas from Japan), and the largest selection of Sanrio products in the state. Because of hihi’s products reoccurring theme of Japanese pop culture and anime, the store heavily appeals to those with a deep appreciation for the culture and its kawaii-feel. Kawaii translates to cute; and just by glance at the store’s toys and inspirations the translation seems obvious.
With a small staff of just three employees and being a relatively new store, having opened in late 2014, hihi has already made an impact on the current market in Royal Oak. The motivation behind its inception stemmed from the Alverson’s “desire to create a unique business with the best selection of anime, kawaii and pop culture inspired products in the area.” After just a brief skim of hihi’s online reviews, it’s clear that they have accomplished precisely what they set out to with countless reviews commending their unique selection, friendly staff, and ability to fulfill an unmatched market in the Downtown area.
What is equally as impressive as their rapid success, is how expansive hihi’s reach has proven to be. Aside from developing customer relationships in Royal Oak and other surrounding cities, hihi brings in customers from as far as Ontario, Canada and Ohio! Even with a reach that spans through neighboring states and countries, hihi is constantly on the hunt for customer input via social media, restocking the inventory to be up-to-date on trends, and thanking their customer base with their in-house rewards program that offers frequent buyers the opportunity to earn free goodies.
As a small shop in Royal Oak, Michigan, Alverson mentions that hihi’s greatest obstacle, although endless, is also exciting and fun. “Keeping up on trends and staying a few steps ahead of bigger retailers” is said to be their greatest challenge; however, the Alverson’s approach it confidently with their constant efforts in changing their stock.
Kent and Kimberly were no strangers to the beauty and business vibes that Downtown Royal Oak has to offer, being owners to another lively store, Lift, prior to hihi’s debut. Opening hihi in Downtown Royal Oak was a natural decision for them due to their positive past experiences and made for an easy addition to their growing small-town empire. The Alverson’s stores fit right in to the small business hub of Downtown Royal Oak, and they love “the urban feel of the Downtown district.”
Check out hihi to see for yourself the vibrant and inviting mesh of cultures at 220 West Fourth Street, and even stop by their sibling store Lift located directly next to them! hihi is open Monday through Thursday from 12pm to 8pm, Friday from 12pm to 10pm, Saturday from 11am to 10pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 7pm.