I grew up in Chinatown, in Liverpool. Memories are very fond memories. My first language was Chinese so I didn’t speak English before I went to school. My parents they ran a fish and chip shop in Liverpool. And then they opened up a small supermarket when they closed the fish and chip up for lunchtime.
They opened a grocers shop in Liverpool next door to the fish and chip shop. And then eventually in 1957 they opened a Chinese supermarket in Nelson Street in Liverpool. I grew up in the family business. Did my education, but then the family need for someone to help my father in the business was there all the time. The pressure was there just to carry on after the education side.
The family came over to Leeds in 19...well we actually...old Wing Lee delivered to Leeds, to the restaurant here, which was the Jumbo, at the time. Then In 1979, 1980 Wing Lee Hong purchased the building we have over the road here, which is on Edward Street next to the bus station. And the business grew from there, actually, in 1980.
I worked every day, seven day week, 12, 18 hour days, actually. Since we opened the new shop here it’s turned the table a little bit, we’ve become more profile and more English friendly as well. The aim was actually to make the Chinese food business similar to the English type of business – to your Tescos, or your Mark & Spencers. I think we have nearly achieved this level on this scale. It is quite nice what we’ve done so far. It’s good, because all the customers feel proud to be Chinese and shopping in a proper supermarket. This is what I wanted – I’ve always wanted to do this.
We have a nice feeling here, it’s like an English supermarket, but it’s actually Chinese as well. So it’s mixing both cultures together. The colours you see here are very, very Chinese, your red, your black, and your yellows, and the greens as well, so as you walk into the shop, this is actually a ‘bagua’ and it’s got all the ... so the door opens electronically, and it opens wide and says welcome. In the front we’ve got some bamboo, and the bamboo actually has a lot of meaning, about ‘feng shui’ meaning. As you see the bamboo is very, very tall, and has a lot of different lines across it, which is all the levels. So, to have bamboo in a business, we have 8 sticks of bamboos on the doorway, it means your business is always going up a level all the time, so it’s actually ‘bo bo go sing’, always giving prosperity, always going up - better level, better level, better level.
If we had an old style of supermarket, and then the children get educated of course, they’re graduates, and they see more of the outside world. If they were going back to a small family business they wouldn’t like that. So I am trying to build my company more corporate, and then it’s more inviting for them to come back to a bigger business, and not as manual workers like I was before. But if it wasn’t for my father and what I got taught from my father, I wouldn’t be here today.
I like to achieve more, I like to bring – like the bamboo – like to bring it to another level, all the time. I am 51, and I would like to show what we can do together. Any good leadership will bring a business further on, but it also needs the members of staff as well, to follow on suit. Not just the old members of staff are very important but also the new members have to be very important. It brings new blood into the company and you have to embrace new and old together. And have a good mix – if you don’t have a good mix your company won’t move on