Hudson Store in Kowloon City closes its doors for good

Hudson Store in Kowloon City closes its doors for good

After almost 60 years in business, Wong Bak's Hudson Store has finally closed up shop

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Wong Bak closes up shop for the final time.
Wong Bak closes up shop for the final time.
Photo: Young Wang/SCMP

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Olivia Mak said farewell with a painting.
Olivia Mak said farewell with a painting.
Photo: Young Wang/SCMP

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Peace Chui loved buying snacks here.
Peace Chui loved buying snacks here.
Photo: Young Wang/SCMP

A dark little shop full of soda, snacks and toys, Hudson Store (1956-2015) stood on a slope in Kowloon City for the past 59 years, before it closed on the last day of March.

The owner, 80-year-old Wong Ming-kit, better known as Wong Bak, had kept the shop running through its ups and downs.

British army families who lived in the neighbourhood before the 1997 handover were regular customers, which made the shop the "gweilos' mini grocery store", he said.

Having learned a little English, Wong Bak started taking orders from the British families - from potatoes and tomatoes to carrots and cheese.

They opened accounts at Hudson Store, and sent in orders two or three times a week. Wong Bak and his helpers would buy the goods and deliver them to the families to earn some extra money.

"We used to sell a lot of British stuff [to cater to the needs of British families]," said Wong Bak. The store was even named after Hudson's Sweet, a sweet loved by expats.

The shop was at its most profitable from the 1960s to the 1980s, and Wong Bak was a happy man. He got married and raised two children - a son and a daughter - with the money he earned selling canned drinks and ice cream, the store's all-time favourites.

"I've been selling the same things for nearly 60 years: things to eat and to play with," he said. Vintage items such as candy rings, space balloon bubbles, and pick-up sticks could still be found at Hudson Store in the days before it closed.

"Big chain stores don't sell these unprofitable little pieces," Wong Bak said, quoting the old saying, "the eagle does not catch flies".

But students from nearby schools loved the vintage toys and snacks. Peace Chui Ching-yee, a Form Three student from Pooi To Middle School, told us about playing with pick-up sticks and how she'd always try to solve Wong Bak's riddles.

Chinese riddles are one of the shopkeeper's hobbies.

Over the past couple of years, he started making up riddles for his customers, and whoever solved them would be rewarded with a free drink.

It was never easy to win those drinks, though. "The riddles are just so hard ... but intriguing, I could never crack them," said Peace.

Surrounded by several schools, Wong Bak's store had been popular with students since the 1960s. At a time when even landlines were not common in Hong Kong, students would gather during breaks to use the store's payphone. "They would call their families to share good news, like if they aced their exams and moved up to the next grade," said Wong Bak, recalling the '60s and '70s with a warm smile.


Revitalising Kwun Tong one back alley at a time


It all started in 1956 when Wong Bak, who was in his 20s at the time, passed 57A, Ng Tsin Wai Road, and noticed it was vacant. He and two friends decided to rent it for HK$180 a month and set up their own store.

His friends left in the 1970s, but Wong Bak kept going. He had eight employees when business was at its peak, but by the 1980s he couldn't afford any extra help.

The rent had gone up from HK$180 to HK$6,000, and the landlord decided to end the lease this year. It was the end of an era. Once the word was out, a lot of old friends, kaifongs, or neighbourhood groups, and students from nearby schools came to visit Wong Bak.

Peter Poon, who has known Wong Bak since almost the first day he opened the store, called it "the first generation of 7-Elevens in Hong Kong". He said: "You could buy almost everything here, from rice to plimsolls."

Before it closed, old and new customers sent in paintings of the store as a souvenir. Hanging in front of the shop was a painting by Olivia Mak, a Primary Four student at Maryknoll Convent School (primary section), who always bought snacks there. "Her father has also been a regular since he was a kid," said Olivia's grandmother.

"Thank you, Mr Wong," Olivia wrote on her painting.

Like the rest of the neighbourhood, Emily Poon, a Form Two student at Pooi To Middle School, will feel the absence of Hudson Store. "Whenever we passed by, we'd say hi to Wong Bak," said Emily. "It will feel weird when there's no one to say hi to."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Gone but not forgotten

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1 comment

Susan Ramsay

09:25am

It is sad that Hong Kong is losing so much of its history, and its collective memory. I bet some of our readers have things they miss from when they were younger. Let's hear about them.