CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chow Hop Ng, right, and Shing Yuen Ng, owners of Shung Chong Yuein, offered up some sweet treats yesterday. Moon cakes from their bakery are shown below. CLICK FOR LARGE
Chinatown bakery called irreplaceable
Shung Chong Yuein Ltd. is closing next week after 45 years
SHUNG CHONG YUEIN LTD. on Maunakea Street, a family-run Chinatown institution, will close next Thursday after 45 years of selling traditional Chinese treats and sweets.
Its founders, 82-year-old Shing Yuen Ng and his wife, Chow Hop Ng, "in her late 70s," are going to retire, said Ericson Ng, their youngest son and president of the company. He is also a dentist with a practice in Nuuanu.
The shop has drawn attention and customers not only outside of Chinatown, but out of state, including the Lonely Planet travel guide, Conde Nast Traveler and United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine.
SHUNG CHONG YUEIN Ltd., a Chinese cake and treats institution at 1027 Maunakea Street for 45 years, will close next Thursday.
Founders Shing Yuen Ng, 82, and his wife, Chow Hop Ng, have decided "it's time to say 'enough,'" said Ericson Ng, the youngest of the couple's five grown children and president of the company.
A dentist with a practice in Nuuanu, he was at the shop yesterday on his day off. His three sisters and brother also have careers, which the 14 grandchildren are either starting or working toward in school. They too are in the store on days off.
It is bittersweet, Ericson said of the closing.
Lots of kids grow up making mud pies, he said. "When we were younger, we were making cookies." And moon cakes and gau and so on.
The store was the family's second home. "Every day after Chinese school, we would come down to help," he said. After starting careers, the children would bring in their own children to help at festival time. "There are a lot of values I've gotten from this store."
"All their lives, my parents were very busy and worked very hard," he added.
His father retired once before, but it lasted only a week. That was about 15 years ago.
The Ng children were taught, "when you work, you want to make sure you're the best employee," Ericson said. Even if paid the same as others, going beyond the call "shows your character." If the company downsizes, "who do you think they're going to keep, the one that went beyond or the one who's sitting down drinking coffee all afternoon?"
Ericson told of special items the store did not carry, but which his parents would make on request for festivals or other occasions.
Customers who had been out shopping would be allowed to leave purchases from other stores at Shung Chong Yuein while they finished their shopping. Sometimes "when they were done, we would help them bring their groceries to their car," he said.
"It's been a great journey ... and like any journey, when one ends, another one starts."
The Ng children plan to send their parents on a vacation, "wherever they want to go," Ericson said.
Shung Chong Yuein has won raves and citations ranging from local foodie blogs to such national travel publications as Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler and the United Airlines magazine Hemispheres.
Anthony Chang, president of the Chinatown Historical Society of Honolulu, had heard rumors about the store and was saddened to learn they were true.
"My reaction initially is that it would appear to be an irreplaceable loss."
Shung Chong Yuein is a popular stop on Chang's culinary tours of Chinatown, on Mondays and the second Saturday of each month.
"Few places provide the preserved fruits and vegetables that they offer on a daily basis," he said. "The variety is remarkable: mango, papaya, lotus root, ginger, coconut."
The Ngs' other unique treats include peanut and macadamia nut brittles, winter melon encased in flaky pastry, and jung -- glutinous rice, pork and a duck egg yolk, wrapped in a bamboo leaf and boiled, normally for 2 1/2 hours, he said, though the Ngs cook theirs for seven.
"Fodor's said the (Ng's) jung is better than anything they have in San Francisco," Chang said. He recently learned jung can be frozen, and plans to stock up before the shop closes.
As for their other treasured goodies, "I have no idea where to go," Chang said.
He supposes an entrepreneur might step forward "with a body of workers and attempt to at least produce some of the more profitable goods," many of which are labor-intensive.
Until closing time a week from today, the store will operate from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.