Sun May Company

Bow Wah watch cleaner
Bow Wah watch cleaner

Sun May Company is the oldest Chinese gift shop in Seattle’s Chinatown. It has been passed on through three generations within the Chin family. Shong Chin started the store in 1911 as Bow Wah, specializing in Chinese merchandise, jewelry and goldsmithing. Son Don Chin and wife Myra Mar Chin took over the business in 1962, changing the name to Sun May. Carried on by grandson Donnie and granddaughter Connie, the store makes its home in Canton Alley, which lies adjacent to the Wing Luke Museum. This watch cleaner comes from the original Bow Wah. Small metal baskets could hold watch parts that would be rotated in the machine’s various cups dedicated to cleaning, rinsing and spin-drying.  At its height in the 1920s, approximately nine families lived in apartments lining both sides of Canton Alley. Ringing with the sounds of laughter and games, the Alley was home and playground to nearly 30 children – the second generation of the early Chinese American community. Today, Sun May Company and Canton Alley serve as lasting connections to Seattle’s Chinatown across the generations then and now. 

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): Seattle
Year: 1911

– Wing Luke Museum

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant