“Ah, you like? Those shoes date back to the twenties in Singapore,” says Juzer Saifee, 55, shop owner of Odds and Collectables, one of the largest antique dealers in Singapore. The practice, called three-inch golden lotuses originated from China, was once considered a symbol of immaculate beauty and prestige, he says, “the smaller the foot, the better.” Juzer professes that he can basically rattle of knowledge on most things, as he stands amid his organised chaos.
His business and items have accumulated over the span of 25 years when he first started in bric-a-brac, getting most of his merchandise from people who offload their unnecessary items when they move, and from regular rag and bone men.
A hodgepodge of items can be found here, from vintage bird cages with exquisite workmanship, movie posters and paintings, to trinkets of all sorts. There is also a preserved turtle which dangles from the ceiling beside baskets and rackets. Juzer shares that the owner a very old Chinese medicinal hall had closed his business recently and the turtle was a prized display. Chinese people, he explains, would boil the turtle with other herbs to create tonics to boost energy and immunity levels.
Occasionally, curious tourists will take photos then scuttle on. Few buy what they see. Instead, most of his sales are channelled from regular customers who place orders such as for a “pre-war telephone” , which he found buried in his stacks. Ordering is easier for me, says the friendly collector, though he occasionally appreciates a game of face-to-face bargaining.
His humble shop house downtown is basically cluttered from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. However, it only houses a fraction of his merchandise with the rest stored elsewhere. “All these things are my savings, my investments,” he exclaims.
When talking about a return on his investments, he is quick to highlight that price is not always the deciding factor for him. “I want to sell to people who appreciate it and who I know will take good care of it,” adding that while he is a business man, deep down he is a collector and wants to cherish the history and quality of the item. “I must see the passion that someone really wants it, instead of buying it and then off loading it to someone else,” he says.
Despite his daily routine of setting up shop at noon and closing around 7pm, he occasionally travels throughout Asia to deliver his merchandise to clients.
In the past, you could walk through the shop absorbing the unique items. However, he moans that this did not serve him well as people helped themselves to a five-finger discount. This prompted him to close off the back sections and allow patrons to only oogle at a small section in the front.
In his first life, Juzer dabbled in interior design upon graduating from an advertising and design degree at university. “I tried it for a while but I wanted a less monotonous job.” It is important to keep your interests alive, it keeps you alive, he says enthusiastically, adding that “here, everything has a story.”
While there are the odd bric-a-brac stores island-wide, the antique market in Singapore is small. There is a flea market held at China Square Central every Sunday, and other smaller shops are sporadically located across the island.
A list of them being found here Vintage Collectors Singapore. Buyer beware that there are loads of reproductions which are declared authentic, and just general junk out there, so choose wisely.
Not only is this place a mini-museum, nestled in a row of shophouses in the central business district, Juzer is what makes it that tiny more interesting with his kindness, humility and ability to talk about most pieces in the store.
You can basically pick up anything from here. But if you have something specific in mind, it is best to call him ahead of time so that he can rummage through his dens and ready that for you.
Odds ‘n’ Collectables address:
128 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068597
Telephone: 65 6323 0043
Mobile: 65 9662 4461