July 5, 2022


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After 55 years of shopping for and promoting books, this second-hand bookseller decides to cease

SINGAPORE: It’s a weekday afternoon throughout the March college holidays, and there’s a gentle stream of shoppers at Mr. Pohl Chan’s second-hand bookstore on the Magnificence World Centre.

There are {couples}, dad and mom with youngsters and older women and men. Most of them don’t depart empty-handed. In any case, there’s something for everybody, from youngsters to adults, from crime novels to comedian books.

Behind the counter, as he quotes the value of the books, Mr. Chan says:

“You already know, don’t you? I shut quickly. »

After 55 years of shopping for and promoting books – 40 of them on this sleepy neighborhood mall – Mr. Chan will shut the shutters for good in 5 months.

The 73-year-old mentioned he was ready for a scenario that will give him “no selection” however to shut, reminiscent of sickness or chapter.

However lease is nearly as good a motive as any, he mentioned. The S$1,400 month-to-month lease for his 200-square-foot retailer rose to S$1,800 in April.

It was speculated to drop to S$2,000, however its proprietor agreed to decrease it after some negotiation.

Mr Chan intends to take the following few months to liquidate his 20,000-pound stockpile, earlier than leaving in September.


It’s a call Mr. Chan appears to have made with problem.

“I’m very hesitant to retire as a result of I’ve loads of good clients supporting me and books are like my household, my buddies,” he mentioned.

Mr. Chan mentioned he was grateful to have entered the trade on the age of 12. Having solely had a main schooling, he thought he must discover a blue-collar job or do handbook labor to get by.

“The truth is, I anticipated (it was that) once I was previous, I’d grow to be a beggar or a small employee as a result of I’ve no schooling,” he mentioned.

“I’m very fortunate, very blessed. There’s air-con right here, it doesn’t work within the sizzling solar.”

The eldest of 12 youngsters, he began working early in life to assist handle his household’s funds. They have been so poor that his dad and mom needed to give away three youngsters as a result of they couldn’t afford to boost them, Chan mentioned.

It was by probability that he bought a job as an errand boy for the proprietor of a bookstore in Sembawang, he mentioned.

He did errands like shopping for espresso for his boss and serving to run the shop, Mr Chan mentioned. His boss additionally teaches him to restore books which might be typically badly sure.

The S$40 he earned a month was used to assist his household.

At first, nearly all of Sembawang Bookstore’s clients have been Europeans, Chan mentioned. New books, even thicker ones, price slightly greater than a greenback. (A plate of mee goreng then price 20 cents, he added.)

Now new books often price at the least S$14, and a few larger or thicker books greater than S$20, he mentioned.

About 5 years after he began working on the bookstore, Mr. Chan went into enterprise for himself. He had assist from his boss, who gave him some books to start out with.

He rented area throughout from Magnificence World till his retailer was moved to the mall by the federal government in 1983. He moved right into a 250 sq. foot unit within the basement of the mall.

“I felt very proud to have a retailer, having began from scratch,” he mentioned.

Enterprise was good on the time, and he had saved sufficient to purchase a second-floor unit, double the scale.

However as smartphones and social media grew in reputation and fewer folks learn for pleasure, enterprise took successful. Issues bought so dangerous within the early 2000s that Mr. Chan thought he ought to fold.

However he determined to persevere. He offered his unit and rented a small retailer, a 200 sq. foot area on the mall’s third ground, which he nonetheless manages right this moment.