PHOTOGRAPHY / KIRK KENNY
The most satisfying achievements are often born in the darkest of moments. Often all it takes to turn things around are a little positive thinking, hard work, unity and an eye to the future. The Chang brothers are evidence of that.
Hudson, Alfred and Alexander Chang are the trio behind Tsujiri at ifc mall. They opened a branch of the fabled, 150-year-old Japanese matcha teahouse at the ifc mall last November. They've since opened a second outlet in Kwun Tong. For the brand, it's a long way from its roots in Kyoto to Hong Kong. Similarly, the brothers have come just as far.
Their business is on an upswing – the trio are a success – but the hospitality trade was never a career goal for Hudson, who ran a website development company; Alexander, an architect and interior designer; or Alfred, who was making his way in advertising and marketing. The brothers grew up helping run the family business, an Indonesian restaurant that was a much-loved institution for about 40 years, and had seen enough of the hard work and the long hours involved in the food and beverage industry to know their futures were elsewhere.
From left: TSUJIRI's Hudson, Alfred and Alexander Chang grew up around the hospitality trade
The brothers placed their personal ambitions in mothballs and got to work, helping their parents revitalise the restaurant that had been the family's life since 1968. "We didn't really have to think about it. The business was going so bad, I don't think we could have done a worse job of it," says Hudson. The eldest of the brothers says there was nothing to lose and everything to fight for.
The choice was career or family, a simple decision for men of character. "We spent so much time there, the restaurant was like our home. All of a sudden someone was trying to take away our home," Alfred says.
"Business is always up and down and it's all about money, there is no right or wrong. Once you make a mistake or a bad decision, you just keep going. It's our job to come together"
The brothers knuckled down. The restaurant was overhauled and by 2003 was a different proposition. The interior design was stark and modern, the menu was scaled back, and money was spent on technology to streamline operations. Transition completed, the business took off, before another blow in 2011 when the restaurant fell victim to rising rents. They moved the operation to Central, rebranded to give an even more modern feel to the restaurant and started again.
The lesson learned was to never give up and to keep working hard. The toughest of times has brought the brothers together so tightly that today they finish each other's sentences. Each has a role in managing the expanding business empire they named Trinita3 Group – Indonesian for "Trinity" or three. Marketing, sales, administration and financial control are handled with a degree of independence, but the biggest decisions are reached by consensus. Debate is often robust but never personal.
"Business is always up and down and it's all about money, so there is no right or wrong. Once you make a mistake or a bad decision you just keep going. It's our job to come together," says Hudson.