‘Umbrella King’ continues 178-year-old family business

By Yue Hongdou, Xu Manning, Shen Yue & Wang Qian

October 2019

Gripping the handle with one hand while opening the ribs gently and orderly with the other, Henry Yau opened the umbrella following his tried-and-trusted formula of “shake twice and then push once” – a trick he said only a business guru would know.

Yau, known in Hong Kong’s neighborhood of Sham Shui Po as “Umbrella King”, is the fifth-generation owner of Sun Rise Co., a store engaged in making, repairing and selling umbrellas. The original store was founded in 1842 by Yau’s ancestors in Guangzhou. Yau, 63, said his father brought the business around 70 years ago to Hong Kong, where Yau was born and raised.

Already as a teenager, Yau said he cultivated the craft of making and repairing umbrellas. More than 30 years have passed since Yau took over the business. He cherishes the store, but said it would die with him because it’s not a “moneymaker” that can attract someone younger to take over.

The future of his almost 180-year-old store may be reaching its end. Yau said even the cheapest fee to repair an umbrella – HK$60 – is more than buying a new one constructed in a mass production factory in China. Plus, he said he’s too old to keep going, despite the hundreds of repair orders flowing in every year.