Wednesday, December 11

Sabah’s oldest book store is closing


KOTA KINABALU: The oldest bookshop in Sabah – Tung Nan Book Store at Gaya Street – is closing on March 31 after in business for more than half a century.

“We can no longer compete with the bookshops in shopping malls,” said Winnie Fung, the owner of Tung Nan Book Store which was established by the late George Wong in 1952, a couple of years before the Federation of Malaya gained independence.

Tung Nan Book Store was previously located at No. 1, South Road, Jesselton West Coast, British North Borneo, the site where the old Sabah State Library was, behind the Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) building, before the premises was relocated to its present address at Gaya Street.

“My father-in-law (George) and his wife both came from China.

“They were both teachers – George in sports while his wife was in music,” Winnie, now in her 70s, said when met at the bookshop.

George and his wife had two sons and two daughters. Winnie’s husband, Edward, now 82, is the youngest child.

“When he was not at school, my husband would help his father out at the bookshop.”

Edward and Winnie were married in 1966 and have six children together. She quit her nursing job to take care of her children and started helping out at the bookshop in 1986 as her kids grew older.

Winnie said Tung Nan Book Store was one of the first bookshops to bring in English books published in England.

“In the 1960s, officials from the Education Department asked why the bookshop did not sell English books.

“My husband told them that that was because no one had recommended English books to him.”

The Education Department subsequently sponsored Tung Nan Book Store and Tim & Ad owners to a book fair in London where they were introduced to a variety of English books.

“They were the first batch (of booksellers) to join the book fair in England,” she said.

As a result, Winnie said Tung Nan Book Store gradually began importing English books published by Longman and Oxford, among others, from its supplier in Singapore and later, from Peninsular Malaysia.

“In the 1980s, we supplied books to a lot of places, including Sandakan, Tawau and Kudat.”

The bookshop also sells imported vintage game sets, such as Jackpot Yahtzee, Hexago new colour matching domino game, poker game, wooden blocks and wood puzzles which dated back to the 1980s.

Winnie said many old customers who got wind of the bookshop’s impending closure had turned up recently.

“A customer in his 60s said his father used to bring him here to buy books.

“Some told me that they used to come here to read comic books.”

Winnie said her husband wished to keep the business going but their children thought  it would be best to venture into other line of business instead as they can no longer compete with the bookshops in shopping malls.

“We close at 5pm and on Sundays. And the parking here is inconvenient.”

On the contrary, Winnie said the major bookshops at shopping complexes were open till night.

“Parents can bring their children to shop for books at the major bookshops at night.

“In the past, a lot of books were only available at Tung Nan.

“But people can buy everything at Eaton or Popular now.

“We have been phased out by the changing times.”

Tung Nan Book Store is now holding a stock clearance sale on all its products.