A touch of the Orient
Local importer brings Asia to Yellowknife

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Jun 02/00) - When Hank Karhut fell in love with Thailand, not only did he acquire a second home, he also found a great way to get into business.

Karhut has spent the last several months building up his Asian crafts business, Red Wing Imports, hoping that Yellowknife shoppers might take a gander at some of the authentic toys, textiles and clothes he brings back from his travels to the Orient.

"I've always had an interest in Asia, especially Thailand," Karhut says.

"I have a friend who's in the business (importing Asian crafts) and upon my travels, I saw lots of opportunities and an exciting venture in business.

"I find Thai people to be very creative. It's a country just a little larger than Newfoundland, but with such a large population, you're bound to find a very talented and creative people. Their woodcrafts are just outstanding."

Karhut has travelled through some of the most remote areas of southeast Asia in search of new and interesting things to add to his growing list of imports. He says that even though he enjoys the more relaxed attitudes of the people farther away from the hustle and bustle of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, his forays into the countryside are not without some risk.

Insects, heat and border patrols, along with an often humbling lack of knowledge towards local customs and language, are all part and parcel of Karhut's latest enterprise.

"The further North you go, the cheaper it gets and the people are much more down to earth," Karhut says.

"Purchasing along the Northern part of Thailand and Burma can be very hazardous. You are entering a malaria- stricken area and a country with an new government (Burma)."

Wandering through the villages of northern Thailand, however, has given him a rewarding insight into some of the crafts he sells.

"I have these artifacts made from ox bone and resin. The people I purchased them from had a factory right in their own home."

Several of Karhut's imported crafts can be found at Langlois on 48th Street, but he's also hoping to draw in some more business at this year's Raven Mad Daze. He and a partner will be awaiting the roaming crowds of midnight shoppers, selling their wares in one of the many booths open for business at the annual event.

Of course, if sales go well, it will only be an added incentive to make Karhut's return trip to the Orient all the more rewarding. "I'm going back next year, can't wait," Karhut says.