40-year-old independent bookstore
Love for books
Hidden in the basement of an old shopping centre in North Point is a gem of a bookstore! 57-year-old Caroline Chan is the manager of the hundred-feet Sam Kee Book Company, home to over 40,000 books and 20 stray cats. Originally from Xiamen, Caroline fell in love with books when her father was being displaced during the Cultural Revolution and her mother was deployed to a library. When the family migrated to Hong Kong in the 1970’s, she savoured every opportunity to read books banned in her own country.
Caroline shares how this bookstore quickly became her second home in the city: “I worked here as a part-time before getting into college and when the owner told me he wanted to leave Hong Kong, I didn’t hesitate and took over the business”. She insists on stocking non-mainstream titles and books from independent publishers. “In a real bookstore, there should be no limit to what kind of books you want to sell.You need to give the space to readers to think and let them decide what they want to read” she says.
Books and umbrellas
Caroline realised the importance of her independent bookstore after the Umbrella Revolution in 2014. “Books are really important. People who love reading search for truth. People who do not read are just passive receivers, they don’t think critically and they don’t ask why.” Seeing many more independent bookstores closing down because of increasing rental, Caroline stands firm to protect this unique space for Hong Kongers.