Quote Unquote: Duane Hong, The Magazine Man

Duane Hong and his wife, Mae, own the decades-old King Fort Magazine Shop in downtown Honolulu.

After serving in the Vietnam War and a career in finance, Duane Hong, 69, wrote a new chapter of his life when he and his wife, Mae, bought decades-old King Fort Magazine Shop on Fort Street Mall. Since then, he’s sold magazines, newspapers and paperbacks to entertainers, firefighters, police, politicians and folks in every walk of life. In recent years, football news sheets have helped boost business for what may well be the last old-school newsstand left in Honolulu.


Photo: David Croxford 

WHEN I worked downtown, I would come in here, browse, and I always thought, one of these days, I wouldn’t mind owning a place like this. Lo and behold, I found out, 19 years ago, they wanted to retire. I made them an offer, and here I am. 


THAT’S WHEN I started: May 1, 1996. I didn’t know it would go by so fast. Mainly, part of the reason is that I enjoy what I’m doing. I enjoy reading—paperbacks and magazines. But now that I have so many, I can’t read all of them, I just pick and choose. I’ll pick a magazine and then I’ll read an article. 


BEFORE, I would say we had 2,000 to 3,000 magazines. Now? It’s less than that, maybe about a thousand different titles. Same thing with the football sheets, we used to have more but a lot of them went to the computers.


MAGAZINES, as a whole, are kind of cyclic. When we first took over, there was a lot of interest in motorcycle magazines for some reason, and wrestling magazines. Then, it kind of died down. Adult magazines have always been steady. Right now, I would say the popular magazines are tattoo magazines and the puzzle books. 


WE HAD two major distributors go belly up, and that really affected us. It affected me, of course, and I’m sure the state as a whole, because of the consumers. They would come in and tell me, we can’t even get the magazines. It affected a lot of stores, not only me. We had two, three weeks without getting any new magazines. 


MAGAZINES, they can go more in-depth than a TV documentary. Somehow, I find, if you read, the words are there, and you can always look back and review what you read. Whereas TV, once it’s done, it’s gone. 


I WISH they had two (daily Honolulu) newspapers still. I miss that. 


I DECIDED to give the Kindle a try, the e-book. I really enjoy reading from my Kindle. I can get books that I did not have or I can’t get. The only thing I miss is holding the book and wanting to go back to an earlier page. If you’re reading a book you can kind of tell where you want to review, what area, just by looking at the thickness of it.


YOU ASK ME why I enjoy the job? Sometimes, I feel that I’m a bartender. People talk to you. They tell you their troubles, how they feel about the economy. It’s like we’re lending them our ears. It’s funny but it’s enjoyable.


WE MEET all walks of life.  A lot of them, you become good friends. A lot of them can’t be bothered.


I CAN PROUDLY say I put two daughters through college. Of course, with my wife’s help. Without my wife, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. She’s a retired schoolteacher. We won’t be millionaires or so, but it’s a good living. 


“Please limit your reading,” a sign gently reminds customers. In nearly two decades, only three people failed to heed that advice and were asked not to return.