Shanghai is coming to you

I was reading a Shanghai based magazine recently, when I caught a full page advertising for Dragonfly Massage. I remember when Dragonfly started, or at least when the franchise had 2-3 shops. The surprise was that they now have many many more. Not only is there about 10 stores in Shanghai, but they also have a branch in Suzhou, a few in Beijing as well as Oslo (yes, in Norway) and soon opening in Dubai. If I am well informed, Dragonfly was originally started by Singaporeans but it’s a true Shanghai creation. Thriving business in the city certainly helped them to grow and they are on track to open in many world locations soon. I’m not sure if I will got Dubai or Oslo any time soon, but I can imaging the day I will be passing by a Dragonfly store somewhere in the world and not be surprised about it anymore.
Dragonfly may be the most visible Shanghai franchise taking over China before going worldwide, but they are not the only one. I was recently having lunch at two of the most well known restaurant – Cafe in Shanghai i.e. Wagas and Element Fresh. When I arrived in Shanghai in early 2004, both stores were amongst the very few foreign cafes in the in the business district of Nanjing XI Lu. Both stored opened less than one year before. They now have about 10 stores each, with locations in Beijing and probably plans for other cities in China. They are the kind of franchise I could see soon in Hong Kong or Singapore and later in New York or London. Then, I will be able to say "I used to go to their first store in Shanghai, right when they started". This will probably sound like "I was a friend of Colonel Sander’s" or that "I used to get my coffee from the original Starbucks in Seattle".
Services chain are not alone in this, I know at least two design firms of Shanghai that have opened stores abroad, Jooi Design and Shanghai Trio. I cannot count in the famous Shanghai Tang… as it is a Hong Kong brand. They both were opened by expat ladies who got relocated to a new place where they continued distribution of their Shanghai created brand. These circumstances certainly helped… but I was so proud last time I went to Budapest, to walk into the Jooi Design store and say "I usually go to the store in Shanghai". You should have seen the face of the local sales girl, she could barely believe it. Another example is my friends from Phonepha / The French Tailor, shipping suits and shirts all over the world.
These are times when I am proud to be a Shanghai expat (even a little bit of a Shanghailander). This is when I strongly identify with my host city. It surely helps that the franchises I mentioned were created and mostly frequented by foreigners like me. I am also thrilled when I see a add for Haier in France, a Great Wall car dealership in Romania, or can get cash at an ATM in Brussels with my Union Pay Card. But the Shanghai franchises are so much closer to my heart. When I see them expending, I somewhat feel like I took part in their growth. Not only Shanghai welcomes all kind of chains and products from all over the world. Its local firms expend in China and the rest of the world. With the Shanghai touch reaching out to the world, Shanghai is really becoming a world city.

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