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The New Face of People's Square

Nanjing Road
April 12, 2004

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The greeting at Mister Donut on People's Square startled us: all the employees were lined up inside the door, and as we entered, they shouted in unison something in Chinese, or maybe English, that might have been something like, "Welcome to Mister Donut!" One woman then took our umbrellas out of our hands and shook them out, wiped them down, and slipped them into a plastic baggie for us. The service was better than the donuts. When I started snapping photos, they shut me down quickly. No sense letting this kind of trade secret out: If they don't guard the formula carefully, there could be thousands of these "donut shops" all over America.

The public toilet on the square was even more impressive, gleaming with marble and new chrome and glass. Attendants in waiter uniforms patrolled the entrance, and framed and mounted on the wall, presumably a portrait of the employees of the month. Who can say how they distinguished themselves?

A little further along, a warm and cozy smell from home, the very thing I wished hawkers had been pitching me instead of fake Rolexes -- a toffee nut latte. Worlds collide as an old man in a Mao suit sat serenely on the back patio of Starbucks sipping a green tea with a smile on his face.