Rey Huang is a lady with a story.
Originally from Taiwan, she moved to Beijing 23 years ago with her husband and two young sons. In their third year here, Rey and her husband decided to separate. She quickly had to make the transition from trailing spouse with plenty of free time to single working mom. Her first job was at ISB as teaching assistant. Eventually, she shifted to administrative work and for many years held the role of bus coordinator because “nobody wanted the job.” Her children had to move to a local school because that was all she could afford then.
But the one thing that remained constant throughout those first few years of single motherhood was collecting antiques and home furnishings. Not having any space to showcase her ever-growing collection, she kept them in storage. One day she realized she had amassed way too many pieces to ever possibly use herself – her babies had already filled two warehouses. She knew it was time to let go of some of them.
It was painful to part with her treasures, as she remembered the story behind each and every purchase. The pieces were carefully chosen and it wouldn’t always be easy nor possible to buy a replacement. But she knew the time had come. She prepared to sell them.
She rented a 100sqm space on Tianbei Lu and put together a little bit of everything. She refers to her first shop as a “grocery store,” because that’s what the Chinese call a place that sells a wide variety of items. She had some antiques, of course. She also had gift items and home decor. And thus, Radiance was born. The year was 2003.
At the time, Shunyi was nothing at all like the suburbia that we know today. There were only three compounds – Legend Garden, Beijing Riviera and River Garden – all situated far away from each other and with plenty of grassland in between. There were very few commercial establishments, and those that were around were very small and local. Radiance was one of the first businesses to open in the area.
It quickly became a popular place for Shunyi families. As the demand for her merchandise grew, so did the need for a bigger space. Rey slowly expanded the shop to accommodate more pieces. In her fifth year of business, she opened a café next door. Buyers could linger over pastries and coffee or tea, all while sitting at chairs and tables that were available for sale.
Rey’s keen eye for details and penchant for good quality furnishings were not missed by her clientele. She grew a steady stream of fans and Radiance became a Shunyi institution. The quiet and underdeveloped suburban area that Rey first came to know had also grown and expanded. More villa compounds were set up, meaning more houses needed filling and furnishing.
While Rey successfully ran her business, her sons grew up and discovered their own interests. Despite going to local school, they managed to stay fluent in English. Upon graduation, Rey decided it would be good for them to spend a few years in America studying. And so, although the separation from her boys would be painful, Rey once again knew it was time to let them go.
Another five years of doing business flew by, and soon the lease was up on the building that Radiance was in. The whole strip was due to be demolished and customers bemoaned the loss of one of their hangouts. The establishments around Radiance closed down and moved away one by one, and then finally Radiance’s turn was up. They disappeared from the local scene for a while and the sprawling compound that once housed Rey’s treasures came crumbling down.
As this year’s summer vacation came to end, news started to spread by word of mouth: Radiance was reopening. The new location is stunning, faces Roma Lake (Luoma Hu) and is nestled between restaurants. The interiors are spacious and bright. The gift items and household decor at the front of the shop are displayed tastefully, the burst of colors catching your eyes as soon as you walk through the door. The back area, cavernous and clean, houses big pieces of furniture as well as lamps and other decorative items in both Chinese and Western style.
Keeping the café was crucial to Rey. It is done in Art Nouveau style and is very homey. Rey did the decorating herself. As in the old set-up, all the pieces the customers use and the decor are for sale. Her sons have since come back from the US, and the younger one runs the café.
On Saturday, September 7, Rey has many reasons to celebrate. There is the grand re-opening of Radiance at the new location (they are now in soft opening phase) which coincides with their 10th anniversary. She welcomes everyone in the community with a charity bazaar, featuring not only Radiance’s well-loved products but also that of 40 more vendors. It will be a good opportunity for loyal clientele to meet up again in her store and café.
Rey’s story has been one of hard work and passion, of letting go and rebuilding. We look forward to witnessing what she will make of her story and her store in the next ten years.
Daily 11am-7.30pm. South Bank of Roma Lake, Shunyi (8049 6400, firstname.lastname@example.org) 北京市顺义区罗马湖南岸左堤路7/8号
Grand Opening and Charity Bazaar, Sat Sep 7, 10am-4pm
Photos by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.