For this adventure post, I was set to take photos of this stationary store that had been open since the 1930’s here in Singapore! Since it was in Bras Basah, which is basically one of the best places to hit up if you’re in the mood to dig around for pre-loved books, I decided to do a bit of book exploring of my own!!
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The first time I went there during work was because I was shooting something nearby and cause I had a bit of time before my next job, I decided to have a little dig around one of my favourite secondhand book store there – Evernew Bookstore.
The shelves there are literally crammed to breaking point. And it is SO AWESOME!!! It looks quite average outside but after you go in, that’s when you realise just how many books there are. Even though there are repeats of books, if there is one you like you better grab it because they’ll just replace it with another book and you’ll never find it again…
So during this trip I walked out with this edition of “Cleopatra: A Life” by Stacy Schiff! Which was awesome because this has actually been on my to-read list for a while now.
Honestly though, I’m not even exaggerating in the slightest about this store. Have a look:
And the kinds of stuff you can find here can range from the familiar:
I always get a nice feeling when I find a shop that still has first print editions of Harry Potter, especially the first book where Dumbledore was given a younger look with a shorter brunette beard…
To the really strange:
I kinda want to read this in hindsight and kinda wish I bought it. ONLY JUST SLIGHTLY….
But mostly I just love how whimsical it is, in the sort of this is so dusty and grimy who knows what is in here kind of way!! Like check out this hilarious juxtaposition of books that was exactly as I found it:
The second time I went during work hours was because I was early to shoot the story on the old stationary store that was closing down. Here’s a picture of the article when it appeared in the papers:
And here is some of the text from the online edition:
In no-nonsense Bras Basah Complex, home to old-school Chinese bookstores and printing shops patronised by students from nearby art schools, one of its oldest tenants is calling it a day. The stalwart is located on the third floor of the mall, with a sign stretched across its shopfront in English characters: “Kaiming Enterprises”, which means “to enlighten” in Chinese…
Kaiming has been around for 77 years and is believed to be one of the oldest stationery shops in Singapore. Because of dwindling business and an elderly owner who wants to retire, its rusted metal grilles will be shuttered for good at the end of the month [Feburary]…
Kaiming’s managing director is Mr David Kwok, who is in his 70s. The shop was started by his father in 1939 in a shophouse in Cross Street, where China Square Central now stands. The late Mr Kwok Tien Pui was a secondary school mathematics teacher who wanted the shop to serve students in the area. The shop sold stationery – some were created in-house, while others were sourced from other suppliers – as well as reference books in Chinese.
But just before the Japanese Occupation in 1942, the family destroyed most of the books for fear of being labelled communists or anti-Japanese. The camera-shy Mr Kwok Jr recalls: “My father said the books were burnt in a bonfire in the back lane behind the shop. It was a painful decision, but he was scared that if the Japanese soldiers marked us, life would be difficult.”…
In the 1980s, the shop was demolished to make way for redevelopment. It then moved to its current premises at Bras Basah Complex… Some items such as ink erasers have been in the shop for more than 10 years… Looking ahead, Mr Kwok is not sure how enjoyable his retirement would be. He says: “I like to keep busy. But I know it is over for this shop.” Would he have done anything differently?
“No. My goal was to keep my father’s shop alive. I have done my best.”
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Bras Basah has many “mom and pop” stores like Kaiming, and while many end up closing for good, there are still a good handfull more holding on who refuse to give up!
During this second work time visit to Evernew, I ended up buying an old Batman Beyond comic that was apparently printed for distribution in Singapore instead of an import from elsewhere AND a paperback copy of “The Prince of Mist” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
And I know, even though I have a buttload of books to read at home that I am still going to continue to frequent these independently owned bookstores because if you spend enough time going through the shelves, you’re bound to find a gem!!