Hardware shops（五金舖 Ng5 Gam1 Pou3） are shops that sell architecture materials, tools, semi-finished materials for construction workers. The reason it calls 五金舖 because goods in Hardware shop are mostly related to metals. 五金 is the common name of five types of metals which are gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. However, we can barely find gold and silver goods in nowadays hardware shops because they mainly sale ordinary construction materials instead of gold and silver such luxury materials.
Construction workers are the most frequent visitors of Hardware shop. In Hong Kong, we have a common name for construction workers which is (三行 saam¹ hong²),they are plasterer, carpenter and paint worker. 三 means three, 行 means career. Due to these three careers mostly involve indoor renovation works, we call them renovation workers too.
Mrs. Cheung (woman at right ), 78 years old, who engage in Hardware shops for 30 years. Her shop is located in Lek Yuen estate which is a public estate in Sha Tin.
She was a shoes sewing workers before she engaged in hardware shop. Due to shoes factories started to move to China in 1980s, she lost her job. At that time, her husband found a hardware shop owner was finding someone to take over the shop. Therefore Mr. Cheung sold his minibus for buying the shop for her to start her new career. (Mr.Cheung was a minibus driver but MTR start in 1980s thus less he could earn, therefore they engage the shop as husband and wife)
Mrs. Cheung said she engage a hardware shop was a quite complicated work because she had to memorise each characteristic of every goods she sales. For example which lacquer is oil based or water based; the perfect ratio of paint and water; how to mix high quality of cement etc.
She also said patient is important because costumers may not be familiar with those materials or tools, and each tool have numbers of brand. She had to explain and teach costumers how to make good use of them. It was because tools in hardware shop are very similar, in order to let costumers buy what they want and need, she had always been patient to what costumers said.
She thinks her greatest satisfaction with her career is that she can provide the most suitable tools in a reasonable price for costumers because with good quality of tools, workers can finish their work fine. Sometime Mrs. Cheung would even teach some non-profession neighbour how to do by themselves in order to save money for them. She said this job like serving the neighbourhood, she feels great when she can help them. Therefore most of her costumers are regular patron because of Mrs. Cheung honesty and kindness.
Mrs. Cheung said although this hardware shop cannot bring her lots of profit, it brings her basic financial support. However, Mrs. Cheung said the most valuable thing that the shop gave her is the friendship in the neighbour hood that is disappearing in Hong Kong. “Some costumers come back after they moved out from the estate, even bring along with their grandchildren”; “Customers are more like my friends” Mrs. Cheung said. Also she is glad that her hardware shop is running till today for 30 years, she does not wish for any great financial profit from it. She said luckily her shop is located at public estate therefore she does not have to pay high rent compare with those shops at commercial area.
Editor: Spencer Lam
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