One of the challenges of being a lifestyle magazine in a city like Ningbo is that after a while things start to get repetitive and seeing the differences between this coffee shop and that one can become a bit of an ordeal. So when something truly original comes into the picture, it can be truly inspiring. Even more rare is finding something that seems to have come about organically, without aping the style and atmosphere of nearby shop or Pintrest.
This area, is one of those places.
The square had the same effect on Stephen DeMarsh, CEO of S&D Design, a Canadian design firm that was one of the first businesses to open in the area.
“I had two local friends bring me to Chen Lv Café in our area,” he says. “I saw that one of the offices was available and rented it right away. I had looked at 20 different office before I found our current office.”
“As soon as I saw it I know it was perfect.”
Since DeMarsh opened his office, the square has grown as neighboring businesses have gradually built up the space into a refreshingly comfortable, quiet and understated space.
“Since I arrived, we have transformed the whole area,” says DeMarsh. “My neighbors and I have built decks and refurbished our own offices and shops.”
The charm of the area is that it doesn’t take DeMarsh or others saying it to tell that it’s been built up organically by creative people invested in the place. The area, by the way, has no official name but is referred to unofficially as “Hefeng” due to its proximity to Hefeng Creative Square.
S&D Designs is among several businesses that now call the area home. The aforementioned Chen Lu Cafe is the most well-known, popular on social media partially due to it’s super-cute environs. The whole area has the atmosphere of someone’s home and garden, with a sense of peace and quiet that is sorely lacking in most of this city.
The area is also home to J&M Tattoo Studio, a funky little tattoo shop that is quickly becoming popular with both local and foreign crowds. Also located in the area are two other cafes, Monai Huayuan and and Times Club, both with beautiful and comfy indoor and outdoor places to sit. Filling out the area is a clothing boutique, a traditional tea shop and DeMarsh’s design studio.
It’s a difficult place to describe. Fortunately, there are photos here to do the brunt of the work. Also difficult is trying to tell people how to get there. The entrance is set back down an unpaved drive at 315 Jiangdong Bei Lu (江东北路315号）. Reassure your cab driver that you know where you’re going, and after getting out walk down the drive until you hit a wall, then take a left and follow the hall back until it opens up.
When you see the gorgeous urban garden oasis, you’ve come to the right place.