You cannot be an expat in Beijing without eventually hearing of Jenny Lou’s grocery stores. You might not shop there, but you will at the very least hear the name. And if you pay any attention to various online chats and coffee shop gossip, you will find that people have firm opinions about the stores – prices, quality, service, and even owners.
I recently noticed that the sign above our nearby location (Pinnacle Plaza) now says Jenny Wang. It used to read Jenny’s. While I can honestly say I don’t care who owns which shop, curiosity got the best of me and I started to do a little digging on the topic. Having done so, I’m still not clear on who is who, or which stores are best.
I read the recent beijingkids blog post and link about the “original” Jenny Lou’s proprietors – Wang Jianping (Jenny) and Lu Xudong (Lou), a married couple who began the business together many years ago.The store name came from their combined names, and looking at the picture I thought I recognized her as the Jenny I see in my shop. I read the story and was satisfied that this was, indeed, the original. I was also certain that it was the better of the two – the first is the best, right? I went to the highlighted website and was further convinced.
Then I looked up the “other” Jenny’s. It’s not Jenny Lou’s, but Jenny’s, or sometimes Jenny’s Shop (proprietor being Wang Jianping’s sister, Wang Jianying). That story, too, sounded very convincing. The only part that seemed odd to me about this one being the “original”was how the store name was created. Like Jenny Lou’s, this Jenny claims that the original name (Jenny Lou’s) was created using her first name and her brother-in-law’s surname. That just didn’t sound right, especially if the sister (and wife) was also in the business. Jenny’s website says that the original store name was Jenny Lou’s, but that this Jenny had changed it for her locations only, which are not the same as those downtown. Lo and behold, I see pictures on that site and it’s the Jenny I recognize! I guess the photo in the online article was the sister after all, simple familial resemblance.
Next I resorted to plenty of online messages from people who seemed to “know” who is who, by personal association or just by assumption. No clarity there. Some say the original Jenny is Jenny’s and not Jenny Lou’s; others say the opposite. There are stories about poor customer service at the Lido location as well as the Chaoyang location, but it appears that one sister owns Lido; the other owns Chaoyang. Some of the more recent posts indicate that the Jenny over by Pinnacle is actually the “real” Jenny Lou’s proprietor (with her brother-in-law), but she changed her store name because her sister refused to do so. Now, in order to further distance herself from the bad reputation some stores are getting (Jenny Lou’s?), she wants to change the name once again, to Jenny Wang.
Neither sister will discuss the family rift, and even if they did, I’m not sure we’d ever really know the truth. Nor would we need to, I suppose.
I’m still confused. To me, there’s now a third Jenny’s and I still don’t know who is who or which is best. I just know that I’ll call it Jenny’s and Jenny Lou’s interchangeably, and I’ll shop wherever I happen to be no matter who owns it. Sometimes service is good, sometimes it’s not; no different from when I shop at home. I’ll still pay more money than I’d like to for imported cereals and other familiar family favorites, but that’s my choice. I can get the foods that I want if I choose to buy them, an option that I realize wasn’t available to expats before Jenny’s – or Jenny Lou’s – existed. Now it appears we have Jenny Wang. I’m sure the attempt is to make it less confusing, but I’m afraid that for the time being – even if they change the colors, logos and uniforms – everyone will refer to the store as either Jenny’s or Jenny Lou’s, and not too many will know there is a difference. Loyalty aside, if you have any, I’m not sure that it will change our shopping habits at any Jenny’s location at all.
Still, I’d kind of like to know the true story here…