Leung So Kee – umbrella manufacturer

Ad 10HF: Thanks to IDJ for this advert from about 1955.

Leung So Kee ( 梁蘇記) has a long history of manufacturing and retailing umbrellas.

The following information is mainly adapted from a computer translation on the company website with additional sources.

There is no mention of whether any of the numerous shops were operating at the same time, though other sources state they were, when they closed or, of great interest to us, where the umbrellas were actually made.

Can anyone provide any information about the company’s production of umbrellas, parasols etc?

The first shop was opened in Guangzhou by Leung So in 1885. He later opened another there in 1920.

Another branch opened in 1923, near Haystack Street, in Macau which apparently was the first to use machinery in the manufacturing process.

The company moved to Hong Kong and opened a shop there in 1941 at 122 Des Voeux Road and in 1944 another branch opened at 321 Shanghai Street. It is difficult to imagine that during WW2 two shops would be operating so perhaps the one on Hong Kong island closed first. The advert above suggests that the Kowloon branch  was still open in the mid-1950s.

In 1949 a shop opened in Nelson Street, Mongkok.

Between 1960 and 1991 a branch operated somewhere at Castle Peak Road [235? which is in Cheung Sha Wan]. At this time the third generation of the family were running the company.

In 1966 there was another move to Choi Hung Road, San Po Kong

1969 saw a return to Hong Kong island, this time to North Point. This outlet appears to have had an adjoining pawn shop, possibly directly connected to the umbrella shop, it was certainly possible during this period to pawn umbrellas.

In 1971 yet another outlet opened at 580 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei followed in 1979 one close by at 537 Nathan Road.

Between 1991-1994 the company was installed in Castle Peak Road [195?] and now involved the fourth generation of the family followed in 1994 to somewhere in West Kowloon.

From 1996 to 2001 umbrellas where being sold at 97, Chung On Street, Tsuen Wan.

Leung So Kee currently operates shops at the Shatin Centre, Shatin and the Dragon Centre, Sham Shui Po.

22/5/14 Thomas Ngan added a comment that “Leung So Kee still has a shop in the Dragon Centre in Yen Chow Street, SSP. I have no idea where is their factory these days though.”

There is a short film (1.29m)  about  the company with comments by Leung Man Shing, current owner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM9qR8WeQ4E  – posted by the Information Services Department, HK

There is also a full length feature film about the company, The Umbrella Story,  released in 1995 see  http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/270691/The-Umbrella-Story/overview

For more information about the company see the conference paper “Case Studies of Hong Kong Business History: the Leung So Kee Umbrella Factory 1886-1986.

4 Comments

  • C

    I was redirected to this article from “Pre-WW2 Industrialisation – products, when first manufactured and by whom” posted on May 20, 2014.

    Three sons of Leung So (founder) inherited the business, and each was given a “territory”. The 4th son’s shop is based in Macao, the fifth son’s in Kowloon and the New Territories, and the sixth son’s on Hong Kong Island. The fourth son might have inherited the original store in Canton also. I believe they were run as separate entities.

    In 1986, the owner of the Hong Kong Island stores, an engineer himself, decided to close the business on the 100th anniversary of Leung So Kee. Many (including myself) mistakenly believed that Leung So Kee was no more. It was only years later that I discovered the Leung So Kee name is alive and well in Kowloon and the New Territories.

  • James Chan

    C This is very interesting, but complicated, so many sons!

    Leung So had six sons in total right? The first three sons inherited the business and each was given a “territory”. Do you you know where these territories were? Do you mean they had a shop which came with a territory?

    Sons 4, 5 + 6 didn’t inherit the business but had shops. #4 in Macao (and maybe Canton). #5 in Kowloon. #6 on HK Island. That covers most of HK/Macao execept for the New Territories. What areas are left for sons 1,2 +3? Or were they in China?

    Hope you can clarify this. Thanks.

    • C

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment. I got much of the information from a list of the stores (in Chinese) on the Leung So Kee web site, which is currently down. You can see the list here:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20130918201647/http://www.leungsokee.com.hk/history.txt

      In the list, only three sons (4th, 5th and 6th) and their “territories” are mentioned, so I presume they inherited the family business as follows:
      4th son — Macao (and perhaps Canton) (business closed)
      5th son — Kowloon and New Territories
      6th son — Hong Kong Island (business closed in 1986)

      However, in the line for the 2nd store in Macao and beside the phrase 4th son, “eldest son” appears in parentheses. So perhaps the first three sons died young, or the first three children were daughters. It is ambiguous as some Chinese families have separate birth orders for sons and daughters, whereas in other families, there is only one birth order.

      More information about the founder (in Chinese): http://www.gzzxws.gov.cn/qxws/yxws/yxzj/yx1_1/200906/t20090621_12949.htm

  • Sam Kwok

    Please help!!

    I am trying to connect with one of the Leung’s family members, Peter Leung. Peter and I were roommates while attending University of Hawaii in Mid-Seventy. He left for Buffalo US pursuing Advanced Degree in Chemistry. We lost contact since then.

    Much appreciated for any help information.

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