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News / City Life

Things you only know if you’re a ice cream vendor

Emily Chow Suet-nga
CS

…according to Emily Chow Suet-nga.

It’s difficult to get the license
“There are only around 60 licensed vendors in a city of seven million. I managed to get mine about 10 years ago. The Hong Kong government has been cutting down the number of frozen confectionery hawker licences, so getting one is like winning the lottery. Out of 6,000 applicants, I got mine by sheer luck. While the industry is diminishing, I want to preserve this local tradition while bringing something new to it.”

Vendors avoid parking next to each other
“Being a vendor is a solitary business. We tend to know where other vendors are regularly stationed and avoid those places. For me, I usually park at Hing Fat Street, near Tin Hau Station. Having a bathroom nearby is also important when it comes to finding the location. If there’s a major event that brings different sellers together in the same area, we try to park at a distance from each other.”

Selling ice cream is not very lucrative
“Flexibility and endurance are key to running the business, and my work schedule is determined by the weather forecast. Every day, I wake up early to check the weather. I can only operate the business as long as the roads are not slippery and it’s safe for me to ride my bike. And if people think I’m doing this for the money, they’re wrong. It’s easy to overspend. The real reward is seeing the joy on the faces of both children and grown-ups when they savour ice cream. It’s a satisfaction that money can’t buy.”

It’s not easy being a female vendor
“When you put together the cart, the ice cream, the drinks and the beach umbrella, it’s a heavy weight to handle, especially when my stall is only operated by one or two women. Luckily, I have a motorcycle driving licence, and engineers have helped design an ice cream vending sidecar to attach to my bike for easy manoeuvring. To be a young, female vendor can be tough. I’ve been criticised for wasting money by painting my bike pink. But I think it’s nice to see something striking, and it helps attract kids’ attention too. Interview by Chloe Li.

You can follow Chow’s updates via her FB page.

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