Odds And Collectables (its slogan is known as 'The Last Time One') is a tiny little curio shop located along Telok Ayer Street, within Singapore Central Business District, dealing with the import and trade of antiquities and collectibles, including furniture and stamps.
Especially in a throw-away culture like Singapore, places like these, with true character and a belief in preserving things that are memorable and cherishing every item, no matter how big or small, are far and few between. So it was really wonderful being able to revisit Odds And Collectables at Telok Ayer Street again recently.
I could still recall first coming here many years ago and one could still walk all the way into the shop. Now, things have been stacked up so high that the shop owner needs at least half an hour to clear the front portion in order to access anything at the back.
Since the shop owner named Juzer Saifee, in his fifties now, opened this one-storey collectables shop way back in the late 90s, the walls have disappeared behind shelves packed with volumes of old literature, rusted tin boxes and dusty perfume bottles. The ceiling has also lowered significantly due to the densely filled hanging baskets, giant birdcages and old kerosene lamps.
On any given day, a faint BBC radio stream plays in the background and despite the retro fan that’s set on high, must lingers in the air. It is a wonder the shop owner manages to pack any more items into his shophouse cove, or navigate his path through. But he does so with ease.
You might ask, why does he choose to do this? Why spend his life around what other people might deem as just trash and stuff that’s taking up too much space or outdated?
From how things are stacking up over the years, i would assume that he’s buying more than what he’s selling. He would even offer to go to your house to remove anything you don’t want and give you cash for it. Not for the profits, but because he does not want to see old things of value being thrown away. To him, every item holds a meaning. You can try just picking up anything in his shop and he’ll be able to tell you where it was from, how it was used and perhaps a story behind it, bringing life to what you’re seeing.
He even told me about how someone had wanted to sell him a set of old framed photos, which he was ready to go pick up and purchase. Unfortunately it was thrown away when the person moved and he was very saddened by the news.
Yes, he does price his items higher than those you would find at Sungei Road, but he takes care of all the items he has. If things are dirty or spoilt, he’ll try to fix it for you or teach you how to get it cleaned. The conversations and lessons learnt there are what makes the sweltering heat, congested space and smell of old papers all worthwhile. After all, it’s part of the whole experience and it’s places like these that make our little island, Singapore interesting sometimes.
Have you truly explored Singapore to discover what’s out there? If you’re also tired of mall after mall after mall, why not start at 128 Telok Ayer Street? :-)