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Business booms for noodle seller who uses his noodle

NOODLE" Wang owns a tiny, unassuming eatery on Xujiahui Road, Luwan District, with its banks and highrises and hurried white-collar workers - who usually opt for fancier places. As his nickname suggests, he specializes in noodles, good and cheap.

A bowl costs on average 10 yuan (US$1.47) - and the place is open late, until around dawn, actually.

Noodle Wang (It seems no one knows his real name), 52, from Hunan Province, opened the joint six years ago and it has done a good business, especially from 10pm to 4am when migrant workers go there. Patrons include residents who want a late snack and random passersby.

The place is crowded with five tables, and they are usually filled, as a dozen people wait for a table.

Before the global financial crisis, the place did okay, moneywise. Tables were filled but only a couple of people were waiting. Most diners were migrant workers or students.

Only a few white collars from nearby highrises stopped by. Some just peered in, appeared displeased with the humble setting and left without waiting.

Since last October, however, white collars no longer turn up their noses at his cheap noodles.

Wang has seen big increase in guests during lunch and dinner. Over the last five months, monthly revenue has totaled 200-850 yuan more than usual.

"More new guests come for dinner, and they are different from my usual late-night patrons. They look like white collars," says Wang.

"They probably felt embarrassed before to come to a place like this to sit with migrant workers, but now they look less stressed and nervous here, probably because they see other white collars eating here."

Wang has asked some new guests why they suddenly chose to his eatery.

"Many say the financial crisis has made them poor so now they must calculate their salary and eat more cheaply."

Although they said it half jokingly, Wang considers hard times to be the real reason behind his increasing revenue.

"Those young office ladies used to go to the highrises nearby for meals, but now they come to my place more often, waiting in line in the cramped space in their nice clothes or uniforms," says Wang.

He especially noticed one young woman who started going to his place for dinner a month ago. She works in an office five minutes away and often had passed his small spot when she worked overtime and ate dinner in the area. She had never before thought of lining up in the crowded space.

"She got a salary cut one day and made a spontaneous decision to come here," says Wang. "She kept coming for a whole week and then brought her colleagues too."

The woman told Wang that the cheapest dinner in nearby restaurants is around 25 yuan, while the pork noodles in Wang's eatery only costs 8.5 yuan.


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