From themed store to theme park

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-18 18:48:01

Dog market closes to make way for Universal Studios Beijing

Dog lovers are having a hard time parting with the soon to be closed Liyuan Dog Market. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Deng Zhenglai, a 52-year-old resident of the Liyuan area in Beijing, jogs to the nearby Liyuan Dog Market, strolls between different stores and fondles the different dog species.

"Did you have a good day?" asks Deng as he hugs a black-and-white husky by the door.

The dog in return jumps and howls at Deng as if meeting an old friend.

Jogging to the dog market has been Deng's daily after-dinner activity for the past eight years. Visiting his canine friends is one of the highlights of his evening. However, his favorite pastime will soon be disrupted as the dog market is scheduled for closure.

An official from the Tongzhou district publicity department announced that the dog market will be closed, said a Xinhua News Agency report earlier this week.

The imminent closure of the dog market is to make room for the construction of Universal Studios Beijing, the fifth such Hollywood theme park in the world.

The construction of the park is a part of the Beijing government's plan to make the Tongzhou district a cultural tourism destination and ease the tourist crush in Beijing's downtown area.

Although a dog lover, Deng, whose apartment is about half-an-hour walk away from the market, cannot have one for a pet because his wife is terrified of dogs. "My grandchildren also love dogs, so I often bring them here on the weekend. I bought my grandson a golden retriever last year, and it is now his best friend."

"I am afraid I won't be able to do all these things in the future," he said.

The Liyuan Dog Market is the largest dog market in North China. About 90 percent of the pet dog trade in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province happens there, the Xinhua report said.

A shop owner at the Liyuan Dog Market cleans a stall on Tuesday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Vendors at the new dog market play poker while they wait for customers. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A dog vendor embroiders to pass the time at the new dog market. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Schnauzers being showcased at the entrance of the Liyuan Dog Market in Tongzhou district. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Packing up shop

Upon entering, the dog market looks pretty bleak. A big red board with the words "a new location for dog market" written in white and a contact number below is among the first things that catches the eye.

Many pet stores have closed. Only a handful of customers can be seen perusing the remaining shops.

"The bleak view is caused by the relocation rumor that started a year ago. The market used to be more boisterous," Deng said.

There were also a lot of mobile vendors in front of the stores who just brought dogs and set up a booth on the street. The market was packed with people and barking dogs from morning till night, recalled Deng. "It was like stepping into a farm. It felt so natural there," he said.

Before returning to Beijing eight years ago, Deng lived in Japan for 25 years.

"In Japan, there are only little pet stores where you can see a few dozen dogs at most. The species were very limited, and it was not as down to earth as the dog market in Beijing," he said.

Twenty-eight-year-old Li Jun and his girlfriend drove from Daxing district, more than 50 kilometers away, after work, especially to catch the Liyuan dog market.

"My girlfriend has always wanted to buy a Pomeranian. We have been here three times before, but could not make up our minds as to which one to buy. Hearing it's about to close soon, we rushed here as soon as we could to buy one," he said.

"We have small pet stores in our community, but they don't have as many choices as here, so we can't compare the quality and price between the different stores," Liu said.

Liu and his girlfriend brought home a three-month-old white Pomeranian dog that night.

Where to next?

There is no official venue laid out for the new dog market as yet, according to Su Man, owner of the Huangjin Doghouse in the market. She has been running her business here for five years.

"We haven't been notified of when we need to close the store yet. [It will] probably be at the end of the year," she said. "The advertisement about the new venue you saw at the front gate is not reliable. I am not considering moving there (the new location), so are most of the other licensed store owners."

The new venue is not organized by the district's government like the current one, and it doesn't have a dog-trading license as yet, Su explained.

She said the new venue is right across the street from a military base and expressed uncertainty regarding whether the government would allow a dog market next to a security facility.

"Moving to a different location is a hefty investment. We need to rent a place and decorate, so I wouldn't move there until I am sure the place is legit and has a stable customer flow," Su said.

Metropolitan made a trip to the venue in the advertisement, about two kilometers away from the current one.

It is still under construction, and there are no stores as yet. However, five mobile vendors have set up outdoor booths, selling dogs from small carts.

"We barely have any customers now. We just trade dogs with other vendors in the new place," said Li Sen, a vendor at the new location.

"If I can't find a proper place, I will just give up the physical store. I currently run a livestock farm and an online store. I can sell dogs directly from the farm or online," Su said. "But selling online is not as good as selling in a physical store. Customers don't trust the vendors when they can't see dogs with their own eyes. Sales would drop."

Su said that due to the constant rumors about relocation since the end of last year, the number of customers have already dropped, and sales fell by around 50 percent in the past year.

Good for the local economy

Although both the store owners and the customers are having a hard time saying goodbye to the dog market, they also admit that its closure has a silver lining.

According to a report by The Mirror earlier this month, Universal Studios Beijing is expected to draw 10 million visitors per year, and provide over 10,000 jobs. The Batong Subway Line and Subway Line 7 will be extended, and a new highway built to connect Beijing-Harbin highway and the Sixth Ring Road to facilitate travel to the area.

"The traffic in Tongzhou is very jammed now; the new roads would be more convenient for local people," said Deng. "I am having a hard time parting with the dog market, but I am also excited about the arrival of the park. It will bring more income and business opportunities to local people."

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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