Every cloud has a silver lining

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 1996, 12:00am

Yeung Buk-chek is an umbrella seller in King's Road, Quarry Bay. In the business for more than 40 of his 68 years, he originally worked as a carpenter in a furniture store, making wooden bunk beds. He later began selling umbrellas from a cart in North Point, before owning a tiny grocery stall which he now runs with wife. The couple live in Quarry Bay.

What's on your mind? Paying the rent. If I sell umbrellas solely, it would earn only $200 a day at the most, far from enough to pay my $1,000 rent per month and living.

What are you going to do about it? There is little I can do at my age. It totally depends on the unexpected rain. I wish we had more showers when everybody is out at work or in the street, because this is the time when everybody gets caught and has to buy an umbrella from me.

But I just can't depend on selling umbrellas to pay the rent. If it rains more I will stock more.

But I am doing other things to help earn a living, like selling silk blankets in winter and bamboo sheets and fans in summer, as well as mattresses, bed sheets and pyjamas.

Is the umbrella industry on a downturn? No, umbrellas are very cheap compared to decades ago, when they cost about $20. They still cost the same. Quality has improved and there are more styles and patterns to choose today but my income is still not increasing.

I used to earn more when I was working the street in North Point, as I could move the cart to wherever there was a crowd. But now I am older and I cannot do that any more. I need the security of owning a shop.

As I remember I used to get caught by the authorities all the time. All my goods were confiscated and I was fined. I even had a record of being caught a couple of times in a day.

How do you choose a good umbrella? You have to check the skeleton and the body of the umbrella for stability. The stitches have to be small too. The umbrella must have been sprayed, which stops it leaking. If you have been using it for a long time, it will wear out. But quality is much better these days.