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Little Shop of Nostalgia

Vintage lovers can get their fix in a charming new neighbourhood store.
Jan 14, 2017 5:50 AM

Ceramica 28 International Pte Ltd
Block 158, Mei Ling Street #01-88

The glass door leading to Harry Ang's antique store says Ceramica 28, but that's not the name he chose. He's toying with the idea of changing it to Grandmaphone, "because everyone in this industry knows me as Grandmaphone Ang".

You just have to look at the merchandise at the modest 400 sq ft HDB shop space to understand why. Taking pride of place are 15 old gramophones - a fraction of his personal collection of about 100 gramophones and 2000 telephones - collected over the decades by the 74-year-old antique enthusiast.

The shop belongs to his friend, who loaned him the space to house a collection that was outgrowing his apartment. He had been showing his antiques to prospective buyers from his own home for the past 15 years, but a cancer diagnosis four years ago spurred him to be more active about selling. He took up his friend's empty store space only recently because "although this isn't the bulk of my collection, I've found that people can be quite uncomfortable coming to your home."

Market voices on:

The shop - which opened on Jan 2 - features 50 to 60 old telephones and an assortment of other antiques such as phonographs and clocks. Prices range from S$50 to S$4000.

Mr Ang - who is now recovering - became smitten with antiques at the tender age of 13. "But back then, I didn't have the money to buy anything for myself, so I would browse through flea markets and window shop," he says.

Mr Ang, who has worked in the furniture and logistics industries, arranged his store's layout himself. "I use rosewood cabinets from my own home because I believe you need to take more care when you're displaying vintage pieces."

While Mr Ang is more than happy to sell his collection, he also provides restoration services because he finds "the quality of such services in Singapore to be lacking." Self-taught, the sprightly gentleman relied on books from France and Germany to provide visual cues on how each component should be fitted. "We didn't exactly have Google then," he notes.

He does see the local interest in antiques rising, but fears the lack of authenticity in the market can be discouraging to aspiring collectors. He says: "When people come to me with pieces for repair or restoration, I sometimes have to turn them away because they're not actually vintage and it wouldn't be worth their money to repair them." His items are usually purchased from places like the US and Europe and come with a lifetime guarantee - his lifetime, that is.

"As long as they give me a call and I pick up," he laughs, "I'll fix whatever they want."