Street Talk

Here’s a cure for your one-eyed, bro­ken-limbed, much-loved teddy bear: Magic Lab co-founder Ryan Lo (right) pro­vides “in­ten­sive care” for plush toys by clean­ing, re-stuff­ing and sewing them up again. Lo co-founded the “clinic” with his brother Ray­mond (le

HK Magazine - - UPFRONT -

HK Mag­a­zine: What is the story be­hind Magic Lab?

Ryan Lo: Since we were young, my brother and I had dreamed of hav­ing our own busi­ness. When we’d saved enough money, we opened Magic Lab. At first we were like Build-A-Bear, which al­lows peo­ple to cus­tom­ize their own teddy bears. We didn’t start fix­ing toys un­til 2016, when a cus­tomer sug­gested it. We learned how to fix toys at a very young age be­cause our par­ents couldn’t af­ford new toys for us. Most of the toys we owned were bro­ken or sam­ples from our un­cle, who worked at a toy fac­tory. HK: Why re­pair toys? RL: Toys have a lot of mean­ing: They have sto­ries, names and mem­o­ries at­tached to them. I grew up play­ing with stuffed toys. I took care of them and talked to them. My brother and I treated them like our best friends, and I’m sure a lot of Hong Kong peo­ple had the same ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up. Re­pair­ing toys helps pre­serve such bonds. But if there’s some­thing we can’t fix, we’ll tell our cus­tomers hon­estly. We don’t want to dis­ap­point any­one. 90 per­cent of our cus­tomers have re­ally close re­la­tion­ships with their toys, and mem­o­ries can­not be re­placed, so we try to be care­ful with them.

HK: Talk us through the re­pair process.

RL: We do a pre­lim­i­nary inspection by ask­ing cus­tomers to send in photos of their dam­aged toy so we can de­cide what needs to be done. When clean­ing toys, we pre­fer us­ing a pres­sur­ized steam cleaner in­stead of chem­i­cals. We re-stuff toys that are los­ing their shape us­ing our stuff­ing ma­chine. If there are holes, we’ll sew them up by hand. We also re­place bro­ken limbs and miss­ing eyes, and so on. We can spend up to two weeks fix­ing a toy, since there’s only two of us.

HK: Any cus­tomers that stand out?

RL: Our first cus­tomer brought in a 30-yearold teddy bear. She was so re­luc­tant to leave it with us that she teared up. We were very grate­ful that she trusted us so much, even though we had no prior ex­pe­ri­ence. Luck­ily, she was very happy with the re­sults. Then there was this cus­tomer who brought her toy in for clean­ing and re-stuff­ing. The toy was in bad shape and we ex­plained to her that we might not be able to re­store it to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion. We over­heard her telling her boyfriend that the toy was the last gift she got from her late fa­ther, and that she would keep it for as long as she could. That re­ally touched us and we made an ex­tra ef­fort to re­pair it. We put a de­vice in the toy that mim­ics a pulse, so her fa­ther’s pres­ence can live on in­side it.

HK: Why do you wear lab coats and masks? Do you think you’re doc­tors?

RL: What we wear aren’t just cos­tumes— they ac­tu­ally pro­tect us dur­ing the clean­ing process. You’ll be sur­prised by the sheer amount of dust and dirt that comes out of th­ese toys! That said, I guess the ti­tle “Dr.” is a bit too pro­fes­sional for us, but some cus­tomers do like to call us

Dr. Ray­mond and Dr. Ryan.

Is your fa­vorite plush pal look­ing a bit worn? Head over to Magic Lab to give it a makeover. Clean­ing and main­te­nance starts at $500. Unit 926A & B, 9/F, Star House, 3 Sal­is­bury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 3791-2869, mag­i­

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