Volume 20 Issue 20 | Sept. 28 - Oct. 04, 2007

Downtown Express photos by Corky Lee

May May owner John Hung with his moon cakes, a staple of Chinatown’s Autumn Moon Festival, which took place Sunday. Hung is closing the family-owned business Sept. 30.

Chinatown says bye bye to May May moon cakes

By Margarita Lopez

Workers diligently packed away baked and steamed produce in cardboard boxes Tuesday as it neared one of the last business days of May May Chinese Gourmet Bakery.

Owner John Hung, 55, is closing up the 35 Pell St. shop his parents opened 42 years ago. The shop will close at 7 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 30.
“It’s so hard to let go,” Hung said. “But I’ve done my best in treating my customers good in all of these years.” Hung said rising rents are not the reason he is closing. The business is draining and he wants to spend more time with his family.

May May opened in 1965 and had just been a small family-owned and run business. In 1972, the business expanded due to a high demand for its products. Hung’s family opened up a factory based in Long Island City and continued to ship their goods along the East Coast as well as catering parties and special events. Hung is closing the factory as well.

Hung made sure to stay open for last Sunday’s Autumn Moon Festival, when he baked the traditional moon cakes, filled with egg yolk, bean and fruit or jam.

The festival harkens back to when ancient Chinese relied on the moon as a time and reference guide for when they harvested by following the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Moon cakes with letters inside were used as telegrams by Ming revolutionaries to overthrow the Mongolian dynasty.

In addition to moon cakes, May May is also known for its Chinese tamales, filled with meat and sticky rice wrapped inside a green leaf.

Michael Lui, 39, a faithful customer for 15 years, calls May May his favorite destination. “I’m disappointed because it’s been here for so long,” Lui added. Like Lui, most customers are upset about May May closing, but most sympathize with Hung for wanting to spend more time with his family.

When the gates are drawn down on the storefront on Sunday for the last time, “people will know that I am closing the doors, but it’s opening new ones for me,” Hung said.

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