Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Not even a super-famous feline can keep this shop open.
Making rent is never easy for a shopkeeper in Hong Kong. Even if your assistant manager is the city’s most famous cat.
Tsim Tung Brother Cream (known as “Brother Cream” or “Cream”) hangs around a South Seas Centre convenience store and has attracted an international following since 2012. (He now has over 40,000 Instagram followers.) He has appeared on vans, buses, calendars, in magazines and books, and as a statue.
But the profits from his fame aren’t enough for store owner Ko Chee-shing to keep making rent. His landlord wants the store closed by the end of May. The announcement was made on the cat’s Instragram account late last week.
It's hard to make a decision to give up somewhere I have been living and working in, meeting friends for over 10 years. Unfortunately, my convenience shop here in Tsim Sha Tsui of Hong Kong has to say goodbye and it will run until end of May this year. It's not easy for a small business to survive in Hong Kong and we are not an exception. I'm going to take a long holiday and daddy does not have any plan at this moment. Having said that, trust we will be meeting again soon in the near future. IG will continue to share my daily life and vacation life with you. Please stay tuned. I LOVE YOU ALL!!! 無奈地，不捨地，我們作出了一個困難的決定，就是要把士多結業。要和我已經居住和擔當店長超過十年的地方道別，實在不是容易的事，但要戰勝小商戶面對的經營困難，更不容易。我快要放一個悠長假期了，但我堅信，我們在合適時間便會再聚。我愛您們！IG 會繼續和大家分享我的日常生活，請繼續留意。
Ads and swag featuring the chubby, 10-year-old British shorthair helped Ko buy some time for his Tsim Sha Tsui East store, telling the South China Morning Post, “if it wasn’t for Brother Cream, we would’ve been done two years ago.”
An average work day for Cream involves four hour shifts while throngs of eager fans surround him and take photos. In a 2013 interview, Ko explained to Hong Kong Magazine why fans are no longer allowed to touch Cream: “Some people poke his head to make him open his eyes for the photos, while other people say they won’t buy my things because they can’t see the cat.” To keep the assistant manager happy, Cream gets Mondays off.
As stressful as things can get at work for Cream and his less-famous wife, Mui Mui, at least they don’t have to worry about rent. Ko, however, is stuck with the burden of figuring out a new life in one of the world’s most expensive cities to rent an apartment, office, or store in.