BANGKOK — Bangsue Junction Shopping Center, Bangkok’s leading indoor vintage mall, reopened on Friday after a two months hiatus due to government’s anti-coronavirus measures. But customers have yet to return.
During a recent visit, some shop owners said they acknowledged that the good old days of antique trade will take a big while to recover, counting on both regulars and new customers.
Marut Juksuwatchara, owner of vintage furniture stope ‘Better Store’, said he expects to survive because of the niche goods he sells, albeit with less profit due to the economic impact from the coronavirus.
The furniture shop owner who sells both local and imported items said sourcing goods has also become a challenge due to transportation restrictions. An old Oliver typewriter at his store goes for 14,000 baht and a lamp from England starts at 16,000 baht.
“The general market quieted down. But ours is a niche market. Those wanting our goods do still have purchasing power, especially regular customers,” Marut said, adding that people stuck in their homes during the pandemic tend to buy more items for decoration, a business boon for him.
Up one level on the first floor at Thai antique shop Varn Lalit, shop manager Tippawan Kiatwanichsopon is less upbeat. She said around ten shops that she knew have either closed down for good or wanted to still wait and see if it’s worth returning to business.
“There will definitely be less customers. They will likely come less frequently,” Tippawan said, adding that 30 per cent of her customers are foreign tourists but now they are gone.
“Chinese merchants who buy to resell have also disappeared,” Tippawan said, adding that procuring goods for the shop have become more difficult due to the curfew and restrictions on traveling to the provinces.
Items for sale at Varn Lalit includes tiny green-glazed sawankhalok celadon jars starting from 1,500 baht or a pair of very thin commemorative Thai drinking glasses with lovely garuda prints for 6,500 baht.
The two shop owners are not alone in taking pride that Bangsue Junction has emerged over the past year or so as a premier destination for a wide range of vintage furniture, Thai as well as Chinese antique, vintage watches and clocks and more.
There are around a hundred shops spread out of four floors of the six stories building and cater to clients looking for something unique.
At James Antique on the first floor, for example, a very rare black and white photograph of King Rama X as a crown prince with faintly noticeable stubble beard about to parachute out of a plane while his peers watch goes for 10,000 baht.
Then there’s many shops dealing with genuine vintage French furniture ranging from French empire style to art nouveau and beyond.
In fact, the best way to enjoy Bangsue Junction is to simply walk past all the shops and examine those that fancy you in more detail. Some shops are so well-decorated that you feel like walking into another time and place.
‘Bygone Era’ is one of them. This tiny Chinese furniture and porcelain shop is a joy to simply stand and stare even if you cannot afford a pair of large 18th century famille rose vases which goes for 250,000 baht.
Jakrapun Boonhongsanun said his customer base are well-to-do Thais. Even those who are not regular customers, once seeing items that they really like would snap it quickly, he said.
With international travel restrictions, Jakkrapun said he couldn’t source new Chinese antiques from China or even in Penang, Malaysia and Singapore where colorful Straits Chinese antiques, known as peranakan wares, are available.
“I really have to see the items myself,” Jakkrapun.
Likewise, the vintage and antique shops at Bangsue Junction is something one has to see by oneself to enjoy, regardless of whether one ends up buying or not.
Bangsue Junction Shopping Center is located at 511 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road. It’s a minute walk to the left from Exit 1 of MRT Kamphaeng Phet Station and West of JJ Market. The place opens every day from 10am to 7pm. More vintage and antique shops are opened on the weekend.