Bakery, tea shop fold as real estate market heats up in Causeway Bay
Food lovers suffered the bitter taste of disappointment yesterday when two more much-loved culinary mainstays in the city closed their doors.
Devoted customers of Leighton Bakery's store on Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, munched on its delectable egg tarts and sausage buns for the last time yesterday as owner Lam Shek-yam closed his store to cash in on the city's property boom.
Taking a break from the lunchtime rush, which saw crowds snaking around the block for a final snack, Lam said it was with a heavy heart that he shut down the bakery, which has been his place of work for the last 28 years.
Resting in a seat next to the drinks counter, Lam, who started baking at the age of 12, said: 'A lot of customers came this week to say goodbye.'
The store has long been a favourite with shoppers and office workers grabbing a bite for lunch or a quick breakfast. Lam says he has sold the shop for HK$140 million - a huge profit on the HK$13 million he paid to buy the site in 1996.
Customers will now have to go a little further afield to the bakery's sister outlet on Leighton Road.
A few blocks away, restaurateur Tai Chung pulled down the shutters on Lan Fong, a cha chaan teng, or Hong Kong-style cafe.
He has fallen victim to the cut-throat property market in Causeway Bay, one of the most expensive places in the world to rent retail space. He paid just HK$19,000 per month for the premises when he opened his business in 1987, but is now paying HK$80,000.
He was given his marching orders after negotiations on a new lease broke down in March.
Tai, who still runs the original Lan Fong on Jaffe Road, Wan Chai, would not disclose the rent he was asked to pay but said that even if he had offered double the previous figure, he would not have kept the lease.
'We just couldn't work it out,' he said last night.
He hopes to open another Lan Fong in Causeway Bay and is scouting for a new venue.
It's a familiar story in Causeway Bay, where last month a sock retailer was forced to become a street hawker after the rent on her 250 sq ft shop was doubled from HK$70,000 to HK$150,000 and the site of a small noodle shop went on the market for HK$180 million in April - a year after it was sold for HK$100 million.
Indonesian restaurant 1968 closed its main Causeway Bay location when rents rose last year, while the UA Cinema chain was ousted from Times Square, apparently to accommodate a luxury retailer.
Japanese restaurant Wallmann Market, near the new Best Western hotel on Canal Road West, closed in August after the landlord raised the monthly rent to HK$180,000 from HK$85,000. The 3,000 sq ft Nam Ah Restaurant, also on Leighton Road, closed in November after its landlord increased its rent to HK$360,000 from HK$255,000.
The area around Times Square, a popular spot for rich mainland tourists, has seen a huge influx of luxury brands in recent years, while analysts believe the opening of the massive Hysan Place shopping and office complex will push rents up further.
Estimated rise in rents for high-street retail space in the city this year, according to Jones Lang LaSalle