JIA Group transforms restaurants into book-lovers’ dream - Hashtag Legend

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JIA Group transforms restaurants into book-lovers’ dream

Nov 14, 2017

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Taschen

Possibly the greatest two things in life (next to the love of family, and world peace...I guess...) are combining for one month only: food and books. And I’m not talking sad, dry café muffins and overpriced cakes, I mean real, honest-to-goodness delicious food. 

From November 20 - December 15, dedicated areas of Duddell’s and Potato Head Hong Kong will be transformed into a bibliophile’s dream by Taschen, the leading art book publisher in the world. If you’re trying to get a head start on holiday shopping, this is one pop-up you don’t want to miss. They’ll have location-exclusive titles as well as their extra-large ‘Sumo’ books available, covering art, film, photography, fashion, architecture and more. 

Ai Weiwei by Taschen books

According to Yenn Wong, CEO of the restaurant’s parent company JIA Group, “It’s not assuming to say food makes people content, so they’re in an elevated mood to browse, unhindered in a relaxed environment...It’s shopping that is elevated – you can’t get it online.”

It’s a shrewd move for the entrepreneur, and comes just days after The New York Times profiled the growing trend of retail-dining-hybrids, claiming that, “restaurants have helped to create new shopping rituals” and arguing that they just might be the long-awaited savior for brick and mortar stores. We spoke to Wong about the concepts, and the inspiration behind this unlikely - but very welcome - pairing. 

Who approached whom for this collaboration?

A mutual friend knew Taschen were looking to do something unique in Hong Kong, and that we (JIA Group) are always keen to explore the definition of a “restaurant” – for it to be more than a space that serves food. We were looped together, and in good time with Christmas fast approaching. The two restaurants that will house these bookstores, Duddell’s and Potato Head, align beautifully because they are curated brand identities that don’t have just ‘dining’ as a pillar. They are locations that value art, design, photography, music and more. These are just some of the topics that Taschen’s work touches on, which makes it more than a well-suited collaboration for both parties.

Is having an integrated retail x restaurant space the future of brick & mortar stores?

It’s an interesting forecast and one stemming from the recognition that’s now seeping through to mass media. For me, checking out concept stores are high on my ’to do’ list while abroad. They’re a real pull. Merci in Paris is a fine example – you can spend hours there. The idea of being able to eat a great meal or have a well-made cup of coffee, prior or post shopping, without leaving the store is immersive. It stems back to the work of department stores in the 1960s. At JIA Group, we’re always asking ourselves how we can use the real estate of a restaurant to be more and do more. Integration answers that.

How will this collaboration benefit your restaurants? The benefits seem to be weighed more towards the retail spaces.

It’s a collaboration that’s not so much about directly benefiting the restaurant or the retail, but benefiting people. This is for our guests and those in Hong Kong who adore books – it’s been done for them.

Is this something you’ve wanted to implement for a long time?

Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good book, particularly when they’re focused on art, design, food and travel. Books and food? What’s not to love. You can’t get that online.

Which Taschen books are on your Christmas list?

SO many. When you look at the number of titles that will be in the two stores, you can’t help but create a very long list. Personally, I’d like to get a copy of Inside Chefs’ Fridges or Issey Miyake, but would love to have a copy of The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen at home for my two boys. A title on architecture no doubt for Alan.

Will we be able to come in for a coffee when we browse, or are the pop-ups more for customers who have just finished a full meal?

The pop ups are there for anyone who loves and appreciate beautiful books – I really believe that experiences and opportunities like this should be open to all. Anyone can call in for a look through the titles. If they’re sitting down to a meal, they might have a browse before or after.

In This Story: #culture /dining

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Sarah Engstrand