Parting such sweet sorrow for barbershop quintet after 45 years

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am

Barbers at the only old-style Shanghainese salon in Central hung up their scissors and put away their razors yesterday after 45 years of service, leaving loyal customers fretting about where to go next.

The five staff at the Shanghai New Man Wah Hair-Dressing Company, all over 70, spent their last day sprucing up more than 30 clients.

Owner Tsui Tak-lai decided to shut when the rent for the 700 sq ft shop in Wellington Street doubled to HK$18,000. Customers were treated to a shave, shampoo and trim for the princely sum of HK$95.

'Apart from the rising rent, I want to retire as I am more than 72,' Mr Tsui said. But he will continue to snip away for some old clients on request, including former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

A hairstylist from a nearby salon, Erin Yip, brought egg tarts and drinks to say goodbye to the elderly barbers.

He said he respected them because they had struggled on in spite of rising costs and changing styles.

Mr Yip and loyal clients showered the staff with cakes and snacks throughout the day.

A Mr Hung, who used to pop in twice a week for a shave and shampoo, said he did not know where to go for his grooming now, dismissing nearby salons as 'too trendy'.

But the barber shop was not entirely the preserve of men.

Monica Lau was one of two female clients and was shocked to hear of its demise. 'Where do I go now?' she lamented.

Ms Lau had her first cut at the shop four years ago and has been a satisfied client of Lee Kwok-shun, 86, who has been clipping and shaving since he was 14.

'The smell of the soap reminds me of the days when I was a little girl,' she said. 'I used to have my hair cut at the Grand Hyatt Hotel salon but that hairdresser kept calling me for more appointments, so I got annoyed.'

Before heading out after a trim of her boyish locks, Ms Lau ensured she had Mr Lee's phone number and tipped him HK$500.

Mr Tsui inherited the business from his father, who moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai. He said he might go back to Shanghai now that the business had closed.

But all is not lost for his loyal customers. Mr Tsui said he would try his best to find them another barber who could keep up the good service.