Lee Ka Yuen Emporium (李家園百貨)
York Lo: Lee Ka Yuen Emporium (李家園百貨)
Founded in 1904 and operated until the 1990s, Lee Ka Yuen Emporium was one of the oldest department stores in Hong Kong which was a landmark on Shanghai Street in Kowloon for decades.
Little info is available about the first five decades of Lee Ka Yuen aside from the fact that it started out as a firm specializing in piece goods before it became a general merchandise store. By the 1950s, the firm was run by Lee Chup-yan (李集仁, 1919-2016), likely a son of the founder. In June 1958, Lee Chup-yan was asked by the United Nations Association of Hong Kong to give a speech at their meeting on business ethics. (WKYP, 1958-6-5)
In late 1958, Lee Ka Yuen moved from its original store at 162-164 Shanghai Street to a larger space at nearby 117-119 Shanghai Street. (KSDN, 1958-11-9)
In 1961, Lee Chup-yan was elected chairman of the HK & Kowloon General Merchandise Merchants Association (港九華洋百貨業聯合總商會), a new organization formed separate from Po Yick Commercial Society, the traditional guild of the retail trade. (TKP, 1961-1-11)
In the 1960s, Lee Ka Yuen was working with major global brands. In September 1961, Lee Ka Yuen conducted its 53rd anniversary sale with the 30th designated as “Max Factor Day” during which customers would receive a Max Factor gift for purchases. (KSDN, 1961-9-30) In September 1964, Lee Ka Yuen celebrated its 60th anniversary with a special sale with including gift coupons and free box of crackers for every $5 purchase. The firm also organized a special week for Colgate products featuring its Colgate toothpaste, Cashmere-Bouquet soap and Fab laundry detergents (KSEN, 1964-9-29)
In February 1967, Lee Ka Yuen hosted its Chinese New Year celebration for its staff with 50 tables at the Alhambra Restaurant on Nathan Road with guest speakers from the industry (WKYP, 1967-2-12)
By the early 1970s, Lee Ka Yuen was led by Lee Chiu-wan (李超雲) as chairman and managing director, Lee Chap-yan as general manager and Lee Kwok-kwong and Lee Kwok-ming as directors. Lee Chiu-wan was a bowling enthusiast and he organized the Lee Ka Yuen bowling team which participated in various bowling matches at Star Bowl and Four Seas Bowling in Kowloon.
Left: Lee Chiu-wan (second from left) receiving a prize at the Super Kent League at Four Seas Bowling from representative of cigarette maker Lorillard in May 1972 (KSEN, 1972-5-14); Right: Lee Chup-yan in his later years in Canada
In May 1972, Lee Ka Yuen opened its Kwun Tong branch at Yu Man Fong with a star-studded ceremony that featured four popular singers at the time – Lau Fung-ping, Poon Sau-king, Paula Tsui and Fu Suet-mui. In celebration, the main store also gave away $1 coupon for every $10 spent plus a souvenir.(WKYP, 1972-5-25)
In September 1981, burglars broke into Lee Ka Yuen’s main store in Shanghai Street overnight an took $25000 in cash and jewelry including ruby rings and jade earrings worth $12000 from the safe. (WKYP, 1981-9-29)
As a firm, Lee Ka Yuen Emporium was incorporated in 1972 and dissolved in 1993. Lee Chup-yan immigrated to Canada where he died in 2016 at the age of 96.
This article was first posted on 27th August 2022.
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