A glass shop. A scales vendor. An umbrella repairman.
For over a decade, Simon Go has documented Hong Hong’s disappearing small, family-run businesses—many of which specialize in trades, like carpentry, that have been passed down for generations. The city’s skyrocketing rents, paired with an economy that’s shifting away from small-scale repairs and manufacturing, threaten to make iconic storefronts like these a thing of the past.
A lifelong resident, Go has published several books on Hong Kong’s fading traditions. His black-and-white images of a fast-changing streetscape offer an intimate look at a way of life that built Hong Kong and may soon be no more.
Go has revisited many of his subjects over the years, and his connection to the people and places he photographs is apparent: Henry Yau smiles while standing in front of his umbrella shop. The Long Lee Noodle vendors grin and flex their muscles for the camera. Three generations of the Ho family stand beside carpenter and family patriarch Louis Ho.
“In these past few years so much has disappeared because of urban development,” Go says. “I think I’ve got a mission to preserve that.”
Wo Cheong Hardware & Electrical Appliances
Mrs. Lou and her husband run Wo Cheong Hardware & Electrical Appliances, which opened in the 1960s. They keep more than 3,000 types of hardware and electrical goods in stock in their small storefront.
Sun Nga Shing
Henry Yau’s shop, Sun Nga Shing, specializes in repairing umbrellas. He has been at the store since the 1970s, and the shop was established decades earlier. According to Yau, he repairs at least 10 umbrellas a day, profit margins are slim, and most customers come out of nostalgia.
Chu Wing Kee
Perry Chu’s father opened the Chu Wing Kee hardware store in 1959. Chu now runs the store, stocking it with products like kerosene stoves, that he says are difficult to find elsewhere.
Kang Ming glass shop
Grandmother Chan (center) runs the Kang Ming Glass Shop, opened in 1927.
Lee Wo Scales
Mrs. Ho sits outside the scale shop her father opened in the 1930s. She says that she keeps the store open for her customers, who travel long distances to purchase her goods, but that she’d rather be at home with her grandchildren.
Long Kee Noodle Shop
Four bodybuilding brothers pose in Long Kee Noodle Shop, which their family opened in 1982.
Sze Cheung workshop
Established in the 1920s, Sze Cheung used to sell handmade leuht lō (wooden blocks) to fishermen who used them as part of a block-and-tackle pulley system. Owner Louis Ho has adapted to the changing needs of his customers and now specializes in wooden appliance covers.
Mido Cafe offers some of the best views of the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood. Wong Sing-fun inherited the business from her father, who opened the cha chaan teng (teahouse) in 1950.
Hei Lam Mun Chinese and English Services
In the 1950s, the Yau Ma Tei area of Hong Kong was home to dozens of small-business service centers, where customers could send mail and file taxes. Chui Leun-tong’s shop, opened in 1972, is one of about a dozen that remains. He says he works as an extra on film sets on the side.
Chung Lung Rice Trading (header image)
Chung Lung Rice Trading, opened more than a century ago, was passed down through three generations of the Wong family. The shop has since been converted to a bar and little remains of the original store except for the 50-year-old mechanical cash register and a pair of golden storefront signs.