In the face of growing competition from convenience store chains, one elderly resident of Dongchi Borough (東崎) in Changhua County’s Lugang Twonship (鹿港) is not ready to call it a day at his family’s gamadiam (柑仔店) — the Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) word for an old-fashioned corner store, where he has worked for seven decades.
Cheng Wu (鄭鋈), 87, began working at his family’s gamadiam when he was 17, selling to local residents and students from the nearby Dongzan Elementary School.
He said he will continue to manage the store until the day he dies.
In the days before many people had scooters and convenience stores began staying open 24 hours, Cheng said business was so good that he had to bike into Lugang to replenish his goods every day.
These days, with fewer children walking to and from school because their parents drive them, business has slumped.
While gamadiam may have a reputation for being somewhat dingy and haphazard, Cheng’s store is well-arranged, with goods ranging from daily necessities to candy and snacks, tobacco and alcohol neatly stacked on shelves.
Many of the items are priced at about NT$10 and some of the sweets are old-fashioned ones that are hard to find in modern convenience stores.
There is almost a nostalgic air about the place.
Even though he sometimes makes less than NT$200 per day, Cheng said he is not worried about his future, since his six children are all adults. He still opens the store at 6am every day and closes at 8pm.
“This gamadiam has supported my family since I was young, and I am thankful for it,” Cheng said, reiterating that he plans to keep it open until he dies.
Many of his old customers stop by almost daily and have a chat with him, Cheng said, which makes him satisfied that he is not wasting his time running the shop.