Spillovers and Side Effects

Real estate developers usually charge a fortune for valuable retail space in their malls. Thus vendors selling more unconventional wares and merchandise have a hard time covering their high overhead costs. What's a poor shopkeeper to do in such an intensely competitive city? You get creative.

After dinner at a cha chaan teng in Tai Haang, Teresa brought me to Causeway Bay to do a little window shopping. We were so stuffed that we agreed we should try and walk it off. At first, to be honest, I was against going to Causeway Bay. I did not need to go to Sogo, Times Square, the streets near Hysan Place or Hysan Place itself again for the umpteenth time. Where's the fun in window shopping there?  Teresa replied, no we are not going there. But if not there, then where?

When we first approached a rather dilapidated group of buildings near Leighton Centre, I thought we were lost. But she looked confident and walked right ahead. What could she possibly want to find here?! It does not seem quite so scary in the photo, but I seriously thought we could get shanked in there (even though violent crime rate is pretty low in HK). It was then we found BUNKAYA ZAKKATEN (文化屋雜貨店).

The entire store was full of funky kitschy paraphernalia that had a distinct Japanese folksy vibe. Sensory overload in the best way possible. The store is by far one of the most original and interesting places I've been to in Hong Kong.

The same shopkeeper also owns a Americana menswear shop that's directly across BUNKAYA ZAKKATEN, named LUDDITE. The store felt more authentic than most stores I've been to in prep havens such as Cambridge or New Haven. The brands there were divided into thrifted truly vintage pieces, some American Heritage labels and some Japanese ones. Luddite is a store you must visit if you are as hardcore PITA menswear fan as I am. 

I'm sad to see malls displace shops that would have a comparatively easier existence on the streets such as the two above. Nevertheless, I'm happy that some vendors manage to eke out a living by opening stores in areas where no one would in the past. The reason why shops in malls are so boring and bland in offering the same kind of products and labels is because the high rent makes it impossible to experiment. While this it makes it much harder to find such creative shops, it feels incredibly rewarding when you finally hit the jackpot. Go forth, explore, visit these shops and support small businesses!