Variety Stores

In an interesting coincidence, two Beijing-based foreign journalists blog about watching neighborhood shops near their homes transform into storefronts for the Chinese sex industry. From Evan Osnos of the New Yorker:

What began as a shaobing shop, selling flaky sesame cakes, shut down after only a few weeks for lack of foot-traffic. It was reborn as a jianbing vendor, but the competition was fierce and it didn’t last long. After a minor refurbishment, the place was tagged with a flashy new sign announcing the “The Great Mythical Bird Construction Supply Shop.” Well, it has opened its doors, but there are definitely no construction supplies to be purchased.

For reasons that I will not, in this case, investigate, it has opened instead as what residents of Beijing recognize as a hair salon without hair-cutting equipment. It’s open late, staffed by a single expressionless young woman, and the clientele is all male.

Austin Ramzy, of Time Magazine, does venture inside:

For more than a year the shop was a dingy general store filled with military surplus goods, toiletries and cleaning supplies. Then mid-summer the store was cleared out and refurbished. The next tenant was a man selling watermelons. It was, as you can imagine, a short term venture. Once the watermelons were out of season the vendor disappeared. He was replaced by a man selling faux cloisonne vases. The salesman seemed a little desperate, jumping out onto the sidewalk once to drag me in as I walked past with my dog. The shop closed a couple weeks later.

Next it became a sex shop. The new proprietors placed a pink bulb into the light fixture and set a sign advertising “adult products” outside.

[…] Inside the shop a child and his mother sat on the floor eating noodles, and the father emerged from a curtain to ask what I needed. On one wall boxes of condoms and brightly-colored plastic sex toys sat on rows of shelving. The other wall was covered with cardboard signs advertising mobile phone service options.


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