The Almond Lady
Over a decade ago, Koi Kei Bakery began selling crunchy peanuts and ginger candies on the streets of Macau. Today, the shop is a family name with a retail network all over the world. The general manager, Iris Ian, tells us about watching Macau's history unfold.
HK Magazine: I know that your company’s founder, Mr. Leung, started off by selling crunchy peanuts and ginger candies on a street cart...
Iris Ian: His dad was selling peanut candy and snacks on the street and he had been following him since he was a kid. He wanted be a police officer - you know, every guy has that kind of heroic ambition when he is small. Anyway, back to reality, his dad made him to go into the same business. In 1997, he purchased some old bakery. His father disagreed but he did it anyways. He borrowed money from everywhere and finally opened a shop in 1997.
HK: Any run-ins with triads? It is Macau after all...
II: For the first two years, the company actually lost money and we need to income generated from street-selling to support the shop. Macau wasn’t that safe before the handover and a triad in the industry sent people to beat him up. When he was in the hospital, the police told me not a file a case because the perpetrator was too rich and powerful. Later, the night he was released from the hospital, someone set fire outside the shop. Even now, whenever the phone rings during the night, he’s still frightened that something bad happened.
HK: What was Macau like when you were small?
II: In my memory, Macau was a quiet place with lots of good and cheap food. Everyone was poor, and my mom was making only 10-15 dollars per month However, people here really know the art of cookery, like when brewing a cup of milk tea, they only pour the milk in when the tea is strong enough. The taste is ruined if the timing isn’t right.
HK: How about today?
II: Young employees today are different. Macau is changing rapidly, and people all go to work for the casinos. Nobody does business here anymore. First, the rent is increasing sharply and starting a shop here requires a lot of money. Second, there isn’t enough labor in Macau. The casino is offering a high salary to attract labor. People usually get paid $6,000-8,000 in a bakery, but a casino will pay $18,000! I better not talk too loudly or my employees will run away...
HK: Will Macau be an Oriental Las Vegas one day?
II: We are already! Eventually, the tourists will spend all their money and time in casinos, though. They’ll eat there, live there.
HK: What do you think about Hong Kongers?
II: You guys have excellent stamina and I don’t know how you can cope with the fast pace of your city. Whenever I come to Hong Kong, I have a headache that lasts about two days. That may have something to do with the polluted air... but I think you guys are a bit too quick in everything. Also, you guys have a more advanced knowledge about management. People in Hong Kong, Macau needs you!
Pastelaria Koi Kei, 70-72 Rua Felcidade, R/C, Macau, +853-938-102 / 682-1801, www.koikei.com.