Shreena Patel meets the owner of Le Magasin, a little slice of France in Sai Kung.
I am from Carcassonne, in the south of France, although my family and I have lived in Hong Kong for almost seven years now.
Prior to starting Le Magasin I was a stay-at-home dad with two kids. Once they had grown up a little they didn’t need me as much so I decided to start my own business selling real French produce that combines tradition and quality.
I spent a summer travelling around France and visiting suppliers, writing down everything in my little ‘carnet de voyage’. Eventually I had enough stock to open my first shop in Stanley. That was three years ago. Last year, I had the opportunity to open another branch in Sai Kung and I jumped at the chance.
I’m always thinking about the next spot to open a shop in Hong Kong. When we started, the French community in Stanley was very big and we were able to reach many customers by word of mouth. Now, French people are spreading out across the city, from Kowloon to the New Territories, opening up a range of new possibilities.
Our donkey’s milk soaps are very popular. In the Pyrenees mountains there is a very old tradition of breeding donkeys. In the past, these donkeys were key to everyday life, but the introduction of machinery has changed that. Some farmers have found a way to continue to raise donkeys by using their milk to make soaps and creams. The milk is very good for the skin.
I love living in Clearwater Bay. Here, we have enough space to have a little garden, spend time outdoors as a family, and keep pets. We have a great dane called Max (thanks to Dr Mike and his team at Pets Central for having him stay healthy all these years). He is a quiet giant who probably thinks he is a chihuahua when he wants to sit in your lap.
When the weekend comes we all enjoy spending time together outside of the city, either walking on the surrounding trails or going to the beaches in Clearwater bay. The people here are relaxed and love outdoor activities like barbeques and boat parties. My favourite time is the summer when the town is transformed for the annual Cantonese Opera. The bamboo theatre rises up in front of the Tin Hau Temple; it feels like it is “la fête au village”!
Sometimes the traffic in Sai Kung is a concern. I think that tour buses should be denied access to the waterfront to keep the atmosphere quiet and peaceful. Also, as a wine seller I often wonder where all those empty bottles end up. It would be good to have a more convenient way of recycling glass.
Everybody will have a different approach to starting a business. Of course, you must prepare and go over your business plan again and again (and again), but at some point you just have to go for it with your heart and your guts, believe in yourself and follow your dreams.
Le Magasin, 21 Sai Kung Tai Street, 2791 0292, www.lemagasin.com.hk