Dongtai Road Antique Market Update

Most shops open, a few shops closed. Either way, the mahjong games continue.

As I wrote the other day, Shanghai’s antique market on Dongtai Road is slated for closure and demolition in the coming months, with the street’s shops scheduled to shut their doors today, October 15 (the freestanding stalls are supposed to close by the end of the year). When I visited the market on Sunday afternoon, it didn’t seem like anyone was moving very fast to meet that deadline, and the one shopkeeper I talked to said that she was waiting to see whether or not it was enforced. After lunch today, I made a quick return trip to Dongtai Road to check out the situation.

At first, it seemed like business as usual: I entered the market area from the east end of Liuhekou Road, walked to the intersection with Dongtai Road and turned north. The market was more or less as it had been on Sunday—stalls crammed with a mixture of junk and cool stuff, vendors playing mahjong in the alley while they waited for customers, a few intense ones calling me over  and going for the hard sell. A couple of the stores had their security grills down, but most were still open for business.

Business as usual for Dongtai Road’s stalls.
Business as usual for Dongtai Road’s stalls.

I retraced my steps, crossed Liuhekou Road, and continued south on Dongtai Road, where I saw slightly more closure-related activity. Shanghai Art Deco—the store owned by Pan Zhizong, whose interview I linked to in my earlier post—was completely empty, with a couple of workmen pulling down wires from the walls and a scrap collector waiting outside to get at the good stuff. (Shanghai Art Deco, the website, was there earlier in the day to see Mr. Pan empty his shop.) Another store nearby (at number 57) was also devoid of wares, and a few other shops had their security grills down, as on the northern end of the street. If I hadn’t known about the planned demolition of the market, I would have just chalked these closures up to the normal cycle of shop life in Shanghai, where stores both open and go out of business with regularity.

Pan Zhizong's Shanghai Art Deco store is among those gone.
Pan Zhizong’s Shanghai Art Deco store is among those gone.

So it seems that not ALL of the shops had to close today—I’d say only about ten to fifteen percent have shut their doors—and I don’t know why those that did were selected (or volunteered? not likely) to go first. To a casual visitor or tourist, I don’t think it would be immediately apparent that Dongtai Road is heading toward a date with the wrecking ball (no one’s hanging a “Going out of business—everything must go!” sign in their window or offering extra discounts). It would probably just seem like a few shopkeepers took a day off in the middle of the week, while others were closing, moving, or renovating their stores. But it became clear to me today that the Dongtai Road market isn’t going to be magically rescued from its planned extinction, much as I and many others hoped that might happen.

I’ll try to go back once or twice more in future weeks to check in on the market—and maybe get my Christmas shopping out of the way early this year … (ObaMao t-shirts for everyone!)

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