Chinese takeover of Funchal landmark

The Bazaar of the People was founded in 1883

I have always found it interesting that when you talk to Madeirans, particularly local shop-keepers, about the state of the local economy, they have a genuine resentment of the growth of Chinese businesses on the island – a lot seem to blame them for everything in almost a racist manner not dissimilar to the way that a lot of Brits regard immigrant communities in the UK.

The Diario reported recently that there are currently 47 shops and 8 restaurants in the region managed by Chinese, which if you think about it is a strange thing to report in itself, in some ways reflecting the same paranoia. This is before the opening of the new Bazar do Povo in the centre of Funchal. This “Peoples Bazaar” was founded in 1883 and was one of the oldest establishments in operation in Funchal.

The establishment is to be temporarily closed, to allow a renovation estimated at more than one million euros, which will occur next month after the liquidation of the contents (a sale is currently in progress) and the transfer of their existing employees to other units of the Madeiran group run by Chinese businessman Wang Yonwei. Under the current “recasting and repositioning” in the regional market, the Group has also recently closed the supermarket Sa Campo Pequeno in Lisbon. Ricardo Wang Yongwei became established in Madeira a few years ago and currently owns three establishments selling Chinese products in Funchal, among which the is Bazaar Macau, on the corner of Travessa do Cabido and Rua do Sabão. The Bazar do Povo was founded in 1883 by Henrique Augusto Rodrigues and subsequently managed by his family. It was acquired in 1995 by the Jorge Sá business group which has now given the right to operate to Wang Yongwei.

41 thoughts on “Chinese takeover of Funchal landmark”

  1. Here some information about Quinta Magnolia gardens. Its FREE to walk in. The swimming pool sadly in no use any more. Nice place to chill and to see the flowers at the bottom end of the garden Its worth a look and have steady stroll. If any one can add any information to their local gardens, it be interesting to read and visit.


  2. Thank you Peter, some information on two Funchal gardens:

    Municipal Gardens

    This well established garden was planted in the 1880’s with stock brought in from Paris and is situated on the Avenida Arriaga. Today there are a large number of plant species with the most interesting identified with labels giving their common and scientific names, their plant family and their country of origin. Completing the park’s attractions are a small lake and stream, several statues and busts (Francis of Assisi, Simon Bolivar, Joao Fernandes, the liberator of Pernambu-co, and the writer Joao Reis Gomes), a cafe and an open-air auditorium.

    Botanical Gardens

    Founded in 1960, this garden occupies the grounds of the Quinta do Bom Sucesso dating from the end of the 19th century. Between 200 and 350 metres above sea level, this garden forms a kind of enormous terrace overlooking the city. Here the most varied species of flora can be admired with more than 3,000 exotic plants, some 100 native species (among which are the well-known laurisilva) and many examples of plants from the different geological zones of the world. The garden has a cafe and also a park with exotic birds, parrots, cacatuas and macaws.

  3. And another two gardens of interest in Funchal:

    Santa Catarina Park

    Located next to the Rotonda do Infante and taking in some of the most fantastic views of the bay of Funchal, this park was laid out between 1946 and 1966, when it was taken over by the local Municipality. Plants from all over the world are well represented here, and there are special selections of trees from tropical and subtropical regions and native Madeira flora. Both native and exotic species are labeled to indicate their common and scientific names, their plant family and their country of origin. Ideal for strolling and relaxing, this park also has magnificent views over the city and the whole of the bay. Its lake is populated by swans and ducks, further interest is added by the presence of the Chapel of Santa Catarina, built in the first quarter of the 15th century and the oldest extant church on the island. There are also monuments to Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus, the aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral looking out over the bay.

    Monte Palace Gardens

    Near the previous park and constructed between 1894 and 1899, although completely renovated recently, this park preserves the romantic atmosphere of the time when it was conceived. Its main entrance in the Caminho de Ferro goes through the beautiful “Largo da Fonte”, a great square shaded by ancient plane trees, with a marble fountain dedicated to the Virgem de Monte, a bust of father Jose Marques Jardim and a brass-relief panel with images of the carreiros, who even today carry tourists from the city on toboggans along the former track of the rack railway. The pathways of the park, where trees from all over the world can be admired, lead down to the lake with its ducks, and at its highest point, 586 m above sea level, to the church of the Virgen de Monte.

  4. Many thanks for the interesting news.

    Macau took-over by … for 99 years! Anyone ?
    Anyone for tea from the East India/Indies Company? Any independent-minded Americans on holidays here for Chá, Açúcar or the lovely Chinesa?

    I am a British “British Immigrant” living in Madeira, now I understand why some locals “the original immigrant communities” think that I must be working in a Chinese shop here. Nobody would guess that I am actually retired here! I always say olá or boa tarde and quite naturally with a smile to the locals (and everybody else include the doggies except the barking ones) here. From now on, I won’t be feel a wee bit upset again if they forget or too shy to greet me back on the streets. I do find the German immigrants and those tourists alike here are generally very friendly toward me whenever I pop out in front of them.
    I do miss my British and British immigrant communities friends back in the London/UK but I am really happy with all the good things this small island got here.
    Lately, I have been dreaming about all those cheap very cheap but delicious Chinese buns and cakes back home in Ilha da Formosa. Interesting enough, I have had this thoughts/day-dreams about introducing (opening) a Chinese bakery here for the last a couple of years. Dear Madeirenses, don’t worry and I promise it won’t happen as it’s too much a hard work even for an energetic Chinese and I am only here to enjoy my very early retirement – just keep walking & spending, spending and more spending for now!

    By the way, there are at least 3 or 4 Chinese bakeries in China Town Soho/London, there are different but quite tasty if you are interested in trying something different and don’t mind crossing the ocean and TAKE it (with an inexpensive price) from there.

    – from a harmless Chinese –

  5. Hmmm – 8 Chinese restaurants. 1 in Madeira Shopping, 1 by the Municipal Gardens, 1 in the Old Town, how many in Lido, any east of Funchal? – Can we come up with all of them? And do they all have the same owner and menu? If we can come up with all 8 I volunteer to check out the last question – it will be hard but somebody has to do it…. 🙂

  6. It might be incorrect but someone told me that the negative feelings exhibited by madeirans towards the chinese dates back many years and relates to the fact that cheaper chinese wicker damaged the madeiran wicker trade . It may be a myth.

  7. SORRY, Got to say this …… But the Chinese shops that have spawned in Funchal, Machico and Canico seem only to sell cheap, tacky and sub standard goods.

    Just my opinion….

    It’s a shame that many of the old traditional business premises have seemingly had their character taken away and have been replaced with shops selling cheap leather (?)belts, sunglasses and dubious foreign makes of electric shavers, hairdryers etc….not to mention any number of inferior plastic household goods…

    Some of the Oldest streets in Funchal = Rua Da Carreira = will never be the same again.


    Dunno, but I did work and live in Hong Kong in the late 80’s and we were know as “Gwielos” (?) = white ghosts, not seen, not recognized.

    I guess that George SA now needs the money……..a shame.

    But the two chinese shops in Santa Cruz (having changed premises twice) appear to be suffering … having taken over the premises of the abortive attempt to import ” SPAR” here … and to be fair, whilst they are lovely people, appear to have over stretched themselves in this fair Isle,,,,,,there is only so much (chinese) junk that you can offer to people…….

  8. Please do not be concerned 安迪 – my observation was on the Portuguese/Madeiran attitude to difficult times. Keep dreaming of your bakery project – I’ll be first in the queue!!

  9. Chinese restaurant on the slope going down to the Lido and China Town in Monumental Lido. Too much MSG for me. Years ago went to another one, but can’t remember where it is in Funchal and there used to be one in Ribeira Brava. One Indian Restaurant has now closed, the one next to the Chinese at the Lido.

  10. It was actually Uncle Bertie who stirred up the racism when in 2005 he said he didn’t want chinese or indians here, and he was going to stop them coming. He was warned by the President of the Republic at the time to watch his words.

    One of the reasons behind the anti-feeling, is that the shops not only undercut local traders, but that they only employ chinese staff (95%, according to the Diário), although it is better in the restaurants.

  11. You have to think back 50 years when you buy in the cheap Chinese shops.
    I was in town one day last year and spilt my lunch over my shirt.
    Saw Chinese shop!
    Cheap polo shirt suitable for XXL???
    Yes blue one at 8 euros.
    Ah! I say!
    It’s not been made quite right!
    Haggle haggle!
    Got 2 for 6 euros.
    Change in shop
    Fat tummy shewed to all! Mass stampede for the door!
    Bought watch for young nephew’s Christmas present.
    Hands fell off. (from watch not nephew)
    Mosquito Tennis Racquet Zapper works fine.
    Umbrella for 5 euros (bought in a downpour), threw in the rubbish after single use.

    Stuff is cheap Market stall cheap.
    Think old times
    Think you are being ripped off
    Be cautious.
    British shoppers spoilt by reliable stores in UK.

    Bazaar de Povo ripped you off by charging at least 6 times more than their stuff was worth.
    Chinese shops can do that cheaper.

  12. I think it is so sad that such a wonderful old building will be turned into yet another Chinese shop. In such a prominent position, it would be ideal for a successful and helpful tourist venture, ie the Tourist Board!! It is a shame that the Madeiran Government can’t step in and protect the heritage of Madeira.

  13. Good description Martin. You get what you pay for. Bazar do Povo, went in once and they were so rude never went back. They deserve to go bust. Shop staff need to learn to be pleasant, more choice to go elsewhere now and we will do.

  14. Went in as a tourist over ten years ago, maybe they have changed but I chose never to go back. It costs nothing to be polite to a tourist, after all they are generally the ones with the money. Most places even with limited or lack of Portuguese by their customers do try their best.

  15. Some 8 years ago I purchased our first dinner service (white, nice) from Bazar de Povo and not only did they box it, pack it and offer to deliver it, they also arranged me a Taxi back to my Residencia …… I admit however, that during these later years, the quality of some goods has declined and they have had to diversify, with SOME cheap imports. BUT the Art material supplies, book selection and music choice has remained top notch.
    So has the customer service. Deb has used them extensively for cushion covers, Zips, cotton etc. and nothing has been too much trouble…..
    Sadly, I fear that this will no longer be the case….I think that it will be a case of “Chinese Take Away” only…….and I bet that ALL the Local Madeiran staff will have to look elsewhere for employment, which of course they won’t find unless they speak fluent Mandarin or Cantonese…….a truly sad day.

  16. We have nothing against Chinese shops. But …… when visiting Madeira on holiday on some twelve plus holidays, it was the local shops/supermarkets that attracted us. It is the tourists that will not be impressed ….. they may as well stay in their own countries – it is all becoming the same the world over. Why come to Madeira on holiday to shop in a Chinese shop, eat Chinese or Indian or whatever – you can do that in the UK.

  17. And may I add, gently, that you are not getting REAL chinese or Indian food here…..
    Just a “westerner” alternative full of MSG or Curry Powder…..

    BUT, go to a local bar/cafe/restaurant (certainly in our neck of the woods=Madeiras!) and you will get authentic local tasty fresh food/drinks and prices – with friendly service, genuine care and a real smile, darn good!

  18. Maybe before indicating “…a racist manner” even adding the word “almost”, is still a very reckless statement! Next time do your research accordingly and point out WHY there is such a resentment. The state favors foreigners to the point of ridicule. Among other things ChinesE are exempt from paying taxes while the Portuguese have to bleed for the mistakes of their Politicians.

  19. Actually I can understand where the Madeiran people are coming from. The UK turned into a very strange place (one reason we left). The Madeirans are just trying to protect their livelihood. I am sure they have seen on TV how the UK and other countries have ended up with companies only employing Eastern Europeans or people from other countries because they will work for less money. In fact I read an article that a very famous company employed someone (British) and at the very first staff meeting they had he couldn’t understand a word that was being said as the language being used was Polish. He was the only British person at the meeting and he was told in no uncertain terms that he would have to learn this ‘new’ language or leave!! Now that is totally unacceptable but it is what is happening. If you criticise they stick you with a label – racist! Maybe we are too old to understand this new world but the majority of people don’t have a racist bone in their bodies they just want to live in THEIR country using THEIR language so to my mind racism was actually created by a lot of nutters who call themselves politically correct persons. All this could easily have been avoided if the government had made sure that all companies paid the minimum (appropriate) rate for the job no matter what nationality you were. They seem to let businesses get away with it!

    On the other side of the coin I have to admit that some businesses on this lovely island charge way over the odds for goods. They should really realise that the internet is here to stay and that people can order goods much cheaper. So in a lot of ways they are not helping themselves. People can’t afford just to buy things nowadays they have to look after their money. For instance, I was looking for a certain brand of hob cleaner. It cost me 10 Euros for one bottle on Madeira which I thought was ridiculous but I bought it. Then I went on the internet and I got four bottles of exactly the same cleaner for £12 including postage. So Madeiran businesses perhaps need to look at this – you can be too greedy.

    Gosh I feel better now – coffee time!!

  20. Betty is right in her observations and we concur.

    A quaint custom on Madeira, we seem to have discovered, is that when trade in the shops is quiet, the prices are raised to cover any trading shortfall.
    Very much an isolated typical islander trait where the shopper had no choice.
    The bazaar shop does ideally need to be providing Madeiran, Portuguese and European goods.
    However the exposure to world prices in the short term may bring financial grief for some old established traders, but in the long term will make for Madeiran firms to compete on the world stage.
    Younger traders will realise the magnificent range of products available is saleable anywhere and will get them to consumers in Mainland Europe.
    The fresh vegetable. salads, fruits and flowers (preservative free and in demand) can be flown quickly to markets throughout the world.
    Even Fred Olsen Lines Ltd, could provide a roll on/off ferry service as an extension of their Canary Islands operations.
    I’ve been pestering them.
    They have former links with Madeira.
    All is needed is attractive prices at the docks, which brings us right round to cheaper goods being brought in to give low income earners a chance.
    Just need an effective trading standards to protect consumers from shoddy goods.
    Even British freight companies collect goods on the island for shipment worldwide, which old established Madeiran owned firms seem to have neglected to do.

  21. Betty, I (we) also concur…..

    Britain has indeed lost it’s identity and most people are scared to admit it or voice their opinion in public…..a ridiculous situation when the majority of (truly) British people feel that way. Not just my/our opinion but that of the majority of our British guests…..

    We lived in North Wales, Anglesey to be precise and that was “Welsh first”…. BUT European immigrants then began to have priority in social housing needs!

    My recent visit to Sheffield was confusing ….. a brand new huge mosque built by the railway station, that housed all the black cab drivers on a Friday (prayer day) so the station taxi rank was deserted – no taxis available then!

    I also believe that people are not being racist, they just want their identity (and that of their country) back with freedom of speech and proper integration.

    In Wales we learnt Welsh — In madeira we learn Portuguese.


  22. Richard hows the garden going this year? The mint I`been growing done well this year. Have a large glass jar of dry mint. That will last me ages. Best way of chopping it up I found, is use a electric coffee grinder.

  23. Hi Peter
    Garden is doing well. Plenty of veg through the winter. To hot now for good veg waiting until late September before I replant.
    Herb supply has been very good, I pick mine and putvthem dry into the freezer, as good as fresh picked when used in sauces etc.
    Google Casa das Flores Calheta. Pictures of garden on the website.

  24. So of the 8 Chinese restaurants, we have 6: Madeira Shopping, by the Municipal Gardens in Funchal, Old Town in Funchal, Caniço Shopping, China Town in Lido Monumental and Chinese restaurant on the slope going down to the Lido. There should be 2 more somewhere.

    And we have honourable mention for Sheng in Rua doña Amelia -Ashian food, very good quality. I will have to go and check it out to see if it is Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Fusion or? and report back. Oh such a heavy responsibility, but I am up to it…….

  25. I am woefully aware that the restaurants here all serve Westernized versions of Chinese food. No place has authentic Chinese food until there is a large enough Chinese Community to support real Chinese food. Once that exists it enriches the food choices of everyone – both in restaurants and grocery stores. When I can get fresh Chinese veggies in the supermarket and Dim Sum in a Chinese restaurant I will feel truly at home in Madeira. For now, I will have to grow my own and fill up on all the Dim Sum I can find when I am “away”. And the Chinese bakeries ………..ooooh, yum. Even one here would be heavenly. As it is, I bring multi packages of moon cakes back with me when I can.

    I believe the Chinese restaurant in Madeira Shopping is MSG free and some of the others may be as well. If customers request it, it will come.

    Quality Chinese shops also follow when there is a market for them, and cheap shops will always exist when there is a market for them, especially in hard times – there is one in Funchal called the 99cent store where I have never seen a person with Asian features. People know they are buying cheap stuff, that is their choice. Borla is built on that premise (Borla – Chinese???) and has been welcomed with open arms by Madeiran consumers. There are several furniture stores here with pricey Chinese and Indian furniture.

    Must go now. Have to pick up some batteries at the cheap shop in Ribeira Brava. Might be Chinese owned, but maybe not – never really noticed. Staff who serve me certainly don’t have Chinese features, but these days who can tell maybe they are closet Chinese?

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  28. “The transfer of their existing employees to other units of the Madeiran group run by Chinese businessman Wang Yonwei. Under the current “recasting and repositioning” in the regional market, the Group has also recently closed the supermarket Sa Campo Pequeno in Lisbon.”
    This is WRONG. The translation from the original article in “Público” said that the employees are being transfered to other units of the OLD OWNER GROUP of the “Bazar do Povo”, and they are the ones that are “recasting ans repositioning” in the regional market, and closed that supermarket in Lisbom, NOT THE CHINESE MAN.


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