The Old Amidst the New

Photos by MAA

I like these businesses that have been around since before the Đổi Mới (renovation) economic reforms kicked in, which ushered in what’s officially known as a socialist-oriented market economy and one of the great success stories in the developing world.

This one, located down the street from Capstone’s Hanoi office, is a combined photo copy service, misspelled sign and all, and a shoe repair shop. (I recently had the soles of two pairs of shoes replaced for the princely sum of 50,000 VND or $2.16. Quality work!) It has been in business since before 1990.

While this shop hasn’t made the owner rich, I’m sure he’s making a decent living, thanks to the large number of satisfied and repeat customers. I like these small businesses because it’s not just about goods and services, buying and selling; it’s also about personal relationships and a sense of community. I plan to photograph more of them whose existence predates Viet Nam’s transition to a market economy.

Notice the “Wine Boutique” on the second floor.

To the left is my favorite barbershop, where a haircut will set you back 70,000 VDN ($3), not including a modest tip. Below is a state-owned store on the same street in downtown Hanoi that carries a lot of electronics and other items typically found in traditional hardware stores.

As with the photocopy/shoe repair shop, these businesses won’t be around forever simply because real estate has become so valuable over the past 10-20 years. State companies are equitized and children who inherit their parent’s property often choose to cash in rather than take over the family business, a global phenomenon. Sadly, it’s just a matter of time before many (most?) of them recede into Viet Nam’s history.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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