Zhangmutou is a town in southern China under the jurisdiction of Dongguan prefecture in Guangdong province. It is named for the abundant camphor trees which existed at one time. It has many flats built and tailored toward expats. It is also a favorite retirement destination and get away for Hong Kong residents because the cost of living is significantly lower than nearby Hong Kong. The predominant spoken language is Mandarin and Cantonese. The city is also known as "mini or small" Hong Kong.
I visited Zhangmutou for several weeks in June 2011 and spent some time walking around larger buildings in the center of the city, but ultimately became fascinated with the small stores located just outside the city center. Hundreds of "mom and pop" stores that sell goods and services of everything imaginable are located within a 6 block area around the main railway terminal. These stores were usually located in a small garage-style space at the bottom of larger buildings and the store owners were friendly and curious about me and my camera. They rarely said no to me taking a photograph of them or their store front.
All of these little independent stores reminded me of something I read one time. It was an article written by Matthew Amster-Burton. In it he said, “Weird little retail businesses endure not because the economy needs them, but because consumers want them and the market delivers. There are some games chains and big box stores just can’t play–and when they figure out how to play, independents will have invented the next game. Your favorite store may go under–it’s happened to me so many times it hurts to think about it–but the form itself will endure”.
The form certainly endures in China.
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