Shop Days #7: The Chinese (Mini)Supermarket

Kim Lien
One of an occasional series where we get to see what it’s like being behind the counter for a day…
Well it is still technically the Chinese New Year, and so we thought we’d have a chat with our Vietnamese/Chinese neighbours.
Kim Lien (who is Chinese but was born in Vietnam) is a sort of oriental Mrs. Shopkeeper. She works silly long hours, but patently enjoys every moment in her little retail universe. Her family all help her (you can see Mummy Lien and daughter Naomi in the picture there), but it is Kim who is tied to the till, the public face of the business. She has been many things – a factory boss, a restaurateur – but this is her first actual shop.
Your day starts… We open at 10.30, but I often have to start earlier, running around to collect supplies
What do you eat? We have no room to cook in the shop, so we subsist on instant noodles and food from the many local takeaways
Best bits of the job? It is a privilege to be able to interact with the local community, both Chinese and otherwise.
Worst bits of the job? We are a small-but-growing enterprise, and I have got to that frustrating stage where I need staff but cannot afford to pay anyone. So I have an increasing work load and am spending more and more hours in the shop.
Would you want your children to follow you into the trade? I’d be delighted if Naomi came to join me. She already helps out.
Your day ends? We shut at 7-ish, but often leave much later.
Back room secret? Stock, stock and more stock I am afraid. A lot of noodles.
Tell us a trick of the trade… Non-oriental people seem very nervous when they come in to the shop. You should talk to the shopkeeper more, ask for their help with ingredients. We like to help…
Gong Hey Fat Choy – or rather, Chuc Mung Nam Moi (in Vietnamese)! Happy Year of the Monkey!

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