He owns pieces of S'pore history

SINGAPORE - He was forced out of his old shop by the high rent and had to take up a new office with just half the space.

But Mr Michael Poh, 52, is not giving up his vintage collectibles business, Viewpoint Trading & Collectibles, just yet.

His treasure trove of merchandise - including old clocks, barber chairs, and antique cupboards dating back to the 1930s - means so much to him.

"I'm very proud of my collection and how they're a part of Singapore's history," said Mr Poh at his shop in Fook Hai Building on South Bridge Road.

"I moved out from my shop at China Square Central last November because the rent was killing me.

"I have to keep some of my items in a warehouse at Kallang because I have only half the space now."

His new shop - which is about the size of a classroom - is full of vintage items such as wooden bird cages, old typewriters and paraffin lamps.

There is barely enough space for customers to move about.

Mr Poh said that most of his sales are to seasoned collectors, rather than walk-in customers.

"There are more people - especially those in their 30s and 40s - becoming interested in these vintage pieces today.

"Perhaps people are now becoming more interested in our heritage."

Mr Poh started out as a collector of stamps and phone cards in the late 1980s.

He recounted: "I was just trading with others as a hobby. However, I was fascinated when I saw the collections in their homes.

"I started collecting more, buying things from people, and even rummaged through dustbins."

In 1988, he left the navy where he worked as a technician, and went on to do "many odd jobs" - including operating a van delivery service - before opening his first vintage collectibles shop at Golden Mile Complex in 1999.

But making the jump from collector to businessman was not easy for Mr Poh, who has three children and lives in a five-room executive HDB flat in Pasir Ris.

He cited an example: "I bought a glass for $200 then because I thought it looked interesting. The only problem was that I couldn't sell it off.

"It was only three years later that I managed to sell it to a collector for $50."

No guidebook

Initially, he did not know if the vintage pieces were authentic, adding that there was no guidebook to teach him the art of maintaining this business.

But slowly, Mr Poh established himself after amassing his own collection.

He also made a name for himself after being one of the few who recovered vintage treasures from the Katong Red House Bakery in 2004.

"My friend told me the owner was looking to clear out his things, so we went down and bought them off him. It cost us a few thousand dollars," he said.

With so much passion for his job, Mr Poh said he has no plans of ever winding up his business.

"I hope to do it till the day I die," he said.

I'm someone who is very proud of our country. I love living here.

How would you describe Singapore to a stranger?

Our country is very safe, the food is good and it's beautiful and clean.

What are the little quirks you see every day?

Everyone is very friendly and most will say hello.

What food do you miss when you're overseas?

Char kway teow.

Your favourite Singlish phrases or words?

"Lah!"


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