Shoppers flock to Mut Wah Street bazaar as it opens up for the last time

Some came to reminisce, others were hunting for bargains as all but one of the vendors at a Kwun Tong institution made their last sales

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:38pm

Yesterday could have been one of the busiest days in years for a doomed market in Kwun Tong, and today will undoubtedly be the quietest.

Patrons flocked to the Mut Wah Street bazaar, snapping up T-shirts, shorts and other items as stall owners offered big discounts on the market's last day.

It was the deadline for more than 100 stallholders at the 37-year-old market to accept HK$96,000 in compensation for moving out to make way for the area's redevelopment.

Just one, underwear seller Lee Suk-yin, opted to stay on. "In the old days, it was a really lively place here," said Lee, who took over the stall from her mother and has pledged to stay to the last minute, even forgoing the HK$64,000 offered to those who move by the end of the month.

"Business was good and the money was enough to feed our whole family."

There are 112 licensed fixed-stall operators and seven on-street operators at the market.

The Urban Renewal Authority, which is redeveloping Kwun Tong in its biggest single project, is building a new bazaar on the site of the old Kwun Tong government building, but it will not be ready until the middle of next month.

Lee accused the authority of breaking its promise that the stalls would not have to close until the new market was ready.

Chan Chi-yung and his wife, who sell children's wear, received a cheque for HK$96,000 yesterday.

Chan said they learned of the authority's plan to clear the market on January 10 and were required to decide within 10 days when they would move out.

He also operated a stall in Yan Shun Lane, which was cleared in October. The couple raised their two children on money earned from the two stalls. He said he still went back to Yan Shun Lane every day for a walk.

"My children were basically raised by Kwun Tong residents. Everyone knows them," he said. "My roots are in Kwun Tong, and I feel helpless about the redevelopment project."

Among shoppers who came to the bazaar to reminisce was Grace Tse, 38, who brought her daughter.

"I'll miss the affection among hawkers and shoppers and, of course, the cheap garments," said Tse, who grew up in Kwun Tong and has been visiting the market for more than 30 years.

The authority said it would offer a living allowance of HK$6,000 a month to operators who moved out before the end of the month, and free storage of goods until the new bazaar opened.