Hong Kong’s bus fanatics have a passion for spotting different models and collecting parts. Now three young men have taken their hobby to the next level – converting old bus seats into some of the most unique desk chairs in town.
The makeover takes place in a 700-square feet workshop in Tuen Mun in the western New Territories. Henry Lo, Jet Chan and Boaz Au Yeung of Pokébus Workshop install castors and other accessories on used bus seats salvaged from scrapyards, where vehicles that have been in service for 15 years or more end up.
These chairs are sold from HK$850 to up to HK$1,800, depending on the seat type, the number of add-ons installed and the level of difficulty in modifying the original seat, 18-year-old Lo told HKFP.
Customers are welcome to order grab handles and seatbelts as optional accessories and the shop can also make the backrest adjustable. Some customers have even asked for a bell or a “priority seat” headrest to make the chair more individual.
Lo said the business officially began in January 2020 but he built his first refurbished bus seat back when he was 15.
“I kept too many bus parts and had no place to store them… then I found some bus seats at the scrapyard which didn’t look too shabby. That’s how I co-founded this shop,” he said.
Co-founder Boaz Au Yeung, 17, said his family had urged him to try to sell his collection of bus parts after more than 30 stop bells crowded the home’s windowsill. The Form Five student is referred to as “the boss” by his friends, since he came up with the name of the company but he said there is no hierarchy at the workshop.
“We all share the work together,” Au Yeung said, adding Lo was the engineer, while 21-year-old Chan – who joined Pokébus last June – is in charge of communications and customer service.
Lo said their neighbours had been curious to find out what a workshop operated by three youngsters does. Their landlord had also questioned whether they had enough money to pay the rent.
The workshop in Tuen Mun is filled with piles of bus seats from various companies, including a rose-patterned chair from Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB), a purple and green design from New World First Bus and a velvet seat from Citybus. These chairs are either produced by Italian manufacturer Lazzerini or Vogelsitze GmbH based in Germany.
Lo, a Vocational Training Council student, said finding bus seats suitable for refurbishment and conversion was not always easy. Sometimes they would spot scratches or scribbles after they had purchased them from the dealer.
But over the past six months, Pokébus has been getting better-quality bus seats following a partnership with KMB, the city’s largest bus company. Lo said the company reached out to them and offered to help sell the revamped chairs at its pop-up stores and exhibitions.
Lo said they now sell six to ten chairs on average a month. Surprisingly, not many customers are bus enthusiasts.
“Maybe bus fanatics know which style is more nice-looking, or which bus is about to be retired, so they will resist and wait and not buy this type of chair [on sale],” he said.
Lo’s fascination with buses dates from when he began secondary school. Like other fans, he would chase after his favourite vehicles and try to capture them on camera. But those days are gone: he is not impressed by the models now in service.
“Many bus styles have disappeared in Hong Kong. The ones that I liked are all gone. I’m not interested in the current bus types. Not a single one. You always see the same type of bus on the road,” he said.
Yet he still identifies himself as a “ba gao” – which literally translates to “bus plastic” – a Cantonese phrase for people obsessed with buses. Asked whether becoming a bus driver was one of his goals, Lo said he had a bigger dream – owning the actual vehicle.
Then, laughing awkwardly seconds later, he revealed that in fact he already has his own bus.
Lo described it as an “impulse purchase” but remained tight-lipped about where it is parked, saying he wanted to keep it private for his friends and his own pleasure.
“There is no problem to share my bus with my friends, but I don’t want to share it with outsiders. Maybe you’ve seen many private bus parties – I won’t organise those activities,” he said.
The teen bus fanatic said he and his two partners would continue creating office chairs from bus seats and may explore ways to recycle and retail a greater variety of bus parts, such as the electric destination signboards.
“We will look into our customers’ suggestions and see what we can do,” Lo said.
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