Japanese baker Masaru Kuge used to operate his bakery at the Tin Ma Court Commercial Centre in Wong Tai Sin. Kuge makes his bread not only free of food additives but also with a personal touch. However, Link REIT sold the commercial center to another company last year, nearly putting an end to Kuge’s bakery business. Luckily, his bakery managed to survive thanks to a local baker who has the same bakery philosophy as Kuge.
Kuge had been a baker in Japan since he was 18. The bakery he was working with expanded into Hong Kong. He arrived in the city in 1985.
Seven years ago, Kuge established his own bakery in the then-less hectic Tin Ma Court Commercial Centre. “Many people live in this estate. Many of them are elderly. I hope they don’t have to travel far away to Hong Kong Island to have healthy bread that is food additive-free,” Kuge said.
Superb natural ingredients and patience are crucial elements for making soft, palatable bread that contains low levels of sugar and salt, as well as having no food additives. Starting at 5 a.m. every day, Kuge is busy making bread at his bake shop until 7 p.m. He produces a small quantity each time such that customers can taste the freshness of his bread.
In December, Kuge was notified of a renovation project of the commercial center. His landlord proposed leasing him a bigger unit with the same rent. He and his wife agreed, but the landlord failed to keep his promise by subletting the unit to another tenant.
Many offered help to Kuge, who was at a loss suddenly. One of them was Jacky Poon, a second-generation management executive of Fung Heung Yuen Bakery, a traditional local bakery in Kowloon City. Six months ago, Poon launched Breadyard that produces bread without food additives. After hearing Kuge’s story, he visited Kuge’s bakery and tried his bread. His experience during the visit convinced him to invite Kuge to become a partner.
Considering their identical bakery philosophy and proximity of the new shop to Tin Ma Court, Kuge decided to work in partnership with Poon.
Breadyard, under the new partnership, was founded. Kuge once again sees familiar customers enjoying the freshness of his breads in a new location.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 14
Translation by Jonathan Chong
[Chinese version 中文版]