Another retail concept to the slaughter

Next to the Mid-Levels Escalator around Rednaxela Terrace, before you get up to the Mosque, is one of a series of humble storefronts. It used to be a Dutch pickled-herring-and-Edam bar called the Orange Tree, popular with the clogs-and-Heineken crowd (maybe). Then, a couple of years ago it became the Butcher’s Barrel.

I went in once and found a classic example of that perverse rule of Soho (and other Hong Kong) retailing: whatever you sell, make sure it’s something no-one needs or wants. It was an up-market deli with organic steaks, hand-crafted sausages, ‘fine wines’, artisanal cheeses and plump olives – all at seriously eye-popping prices. The idea was that expat/yuppie residents would drop by on the way back from their Central investment banks and pick up these luxurious ingredients to make a lavish gwailo-feast in their exclusive little apartments.

The problem, as any residential-property agent in the neighbourhood could have pointed out, is that the 20-something single foreign-banker set don’t cook. They dine at nasty Lan Kwai Fong places, or get pizza delivered, or – when feeling ambitious – grab a frozen meal at Marks & Spencers down the hill and microwave it. Even my recent pickled eggs recipe would leave them wondering how you can tell when the water’s boiling.

So, obviously, it soon closed. (It might have worked in a Disco Bay-type family district – or if the lavishly exorbitant food had been for dogs.) And, obviously, the place stood empty for at least six months, if not longer, while the landlord waited and waited and waited, even though no rent was coming in, for a tenant/sucker willing to pay the idiotic amount he demanded.

His patience was finally rewarded a few weeks ago when the premises became Maison de Paris.

As you glide past on the Escalator, you get a hazy glimpse of lacy and wooden stuff behind the reflective glass. A close-up inspection reveals a sofa with teddy bears, some (indeed lacy) curtains and clothing, and some elaborate lighting. It is hard to tell what is product and what is for show – I would guess that in the interests of revenue-per-square-foot, all the garments, furnishings and fittings are for sale. In any case, we can politely describe the theme as chichi.

Who are the customers supposed to be?

No man would touch such hideously vile items. No Western women would either, apart from a few girls going through the age 7-9, post-pink/princess phase (but again, this is not a family area – and I don’t see a rocking horse inside).

That theoretically leaves Asian females, but the ones living here are hard-bitten professionals who are into kick-boxing rather than teddy bears (the concept might suit a private estate of nouveau-rich Mainlanders). So we narrow down the demographic to Korean office-lady tourists, who are quite possibly into the Beatrix Potter sort of thing – but are hardly going to pick up a lampstand as they chew their egg tarts and consult their maps.

I have no idea. But if it was a restaurant it would appear here.

I declare the weekend open with a plea to anyone with delusional egotism and a lust for publicity and power to consider helping Regina Ip, who needs someone to take over her – slightly used but almost as-new – political party.

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12 Responses to Another retail concept to the slaughter

  1. Hemlock: Born in captivity.

    You busted my brothel, you creep. It’s all a front. You should have checked out the girls in the back. The uniforms are all real.

    The best quote I can find for you is on the list of rules for users of your precious Mid-Levels escalator:

    RULE 4: DO NOT WAIL AGAINST THE FLOW.

  2. Hank Morgan says:

    A favorite picture shows a plaque on a brick wall stating

    “Beatrix Potter Lived in a house on this site from 1866 to 1913”

    Just a random walk in London.

  3. Red Dragon says:

    Hemmers, don’t you think that these ludicrous retail outlets can be explained more simply?

    Surely, they have “money laundering” written all over them.

  4. Red Dragon says:

    The usual guff from the egregious Regina. Why doesn’t she just piss off and give everyone a break?

    I must say, however, that I very much like the image of a “fresh” Eunice Yung “feeling” around her new post. Perhaps she could wear something lacy from the “Maison de Paris” in which to do the “feeling”.

    Who would have thought that the NPP could be so saucy?

  5. Knownot says:

    For the weekend.

    The Eve of Armageddon, perhaps

    A loudmouth boy, though seventy in age,
    Confronts the bad boy and his contraband:
    A ruthless boy, a demi-god, a sage,
    The only fat kid in his ill-fed land.
    See Trump at the golf-course boldly stand,
    With fire and fury needle and provoke
    The leader of an army, a million manned.
    He pushes Kim, and Kim gives him a poke;
    — Just a boyish game, just a lethal joke.

    Amid the sound of revelry by night
    There is a lisp, a rustle in the air,
    A whisper that these two great leaders might
    Take their missiles out and both declare,
    “I’m going to fire! You think I do not dare?”
    How can one spend the short remaining time?
    One makes some pickled eggs with loving care.
    Another makes a little bit of rhyme.
    — Before the lethal end of the pantomime.

    with acknowledgement to ‘The Eve of Waterloo’ by Lord Byron

  6. Old Fishmarket Close says:

    Eunice Yung, eh? She’s got one of those faces which, when she smiles, looks like she’s hiding a rotten oyster under her tongue.

    She can take that post and jam it.

  7. LRE says:

    In the sage words of Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”. I reckon Vagina is only talking of retiring because of the marked career boost it afforded CY Lam: she’s still angling for the Chief Exonerative slot!

    Also good to see CY Cheung, CY Leung’s right hand man in a huge pot of boiling water. Tick-tock, 689. Tick-tock.

  8. T. Durden says:

    On reading about Savitas I couldn’t help remembering Marla Singer’s lines from the movie ‘Fight Club’:

    “It’s a bridesmaid’s dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree. So special. Then, bam, it’s on the side of the road. Tinsel still clinging to it. Like a sex crime victim. Underwear inside out. Bound with electrical tape…”

  9. Knownot says:

    “The law has no weight.”

    A comment I heard after today’s report of the alleged abduction by mainland agents of Howard Lam, a Democratic Party member who is in touch with the widow of Liu Xiaobo.

    Weight. Some people may remember traditional British (Imperial) measurements of weight.
    16 ounces = 1 pound
    14 pounds = 1 stone
    2 stone = 1 quarter
    4 quarters = 1 hundredweight
    20 hundredweight = 1 ton.

    In 1999 the Basic Law was “reinterpreted”, contradicting the Court of Final Appeal, so that some people – the Government claimed 1.67 million – lost their right of abode in Hong Kong.
    Well, I thought, not much harm was done.
    It weighs a ton.

    In 2005 it was “reinterpreted” again so that the incoming Chief Executive would only serve the remainder of the outgoing CE’s term, not the full five years.
    Well, I thought, a minor matter. At any rate
    It weighs a hundredweight.

    “Co-location” at West Kowloon Station (which the Government has quite freely proposed) apparently contravenes the Basic Law.
    It’s sensible, I thought, and makes the journey shorter.
    It weighs a quarter.

    A publisher/bookseller was abducted in Hong Kong and taken into China.
    Well, I thought, the books were trash, the risks were known.
    It weighs a stone.

    The oath mis-takers were expelled from Legco.
    Well, I thought, they knew they trod on dangerous ground.
    It weighs a pound.

    Today’s news.
    Well, I think, if Mainland thugs can freely pounce
    It doesn’t weigh an ounce.

  10. Cassowary says:

    Hemlock, you have weird problems. Every damn store that opens in my ‘hood is a pharmacy or another bloody Sichuan spicy noodle joint. It’s like there’s a law saying we are only allowed to sell those two things.

  11. Selfie Schtick says:

    Yes. Money-laundering springs to mind. There’s a place selling upmarket olive oil in the Sai Ying Pun area. It never seems to open. Also, does anyone remember the Korean ginseng place near the Shun Tak ferry terminal to Macau? No business, but the signage resembled the North Korean flag?

  12. Joe Blow says:

    Mrs Ip’s erstwhile protege Ronald Chan (35 and gay) could have taken over from her but he was offered a festive aloha by Carrie Lam who had no need for the non-exist expertise that he brought to the job of Assistant Secretary of something (likewise, Christine Loh, who, hopefully, we’ll never hear from again).

    In the meantime, the buzz is that the new tower in the middle of LKF is ‘struggling’ to attract traffic (suckers) to its authentic-everything F & B outlets. Apparently (Alibaba Post review) there is a ‘stylish’ Chinese-style bar/ bistro/ lounge/ railway canteen that serves cocktails-with-umbrellas in authentic peanut butter jars at only $150- per glass. Don’t miss it.

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