Towering wooden shelves stand within the unpretentious shophouse, seemingly unobstructed yet hinting at mysteries, head upstairs and find the storage place with mezzanine floors. All kinds of hardware accessories are arranged in an orderly manner, according to category, brand, and size. The yellowing labels indicate the passage of time, yet the neat marker pen handwriting remains legible. Both veterans and rookies are able to quickly and accurately locate products that customers need. The inventory is a mix of new and old items, such as old-fashioned paraffin blow torch, drop-forged steel wrenches directly imported from Europe, as well as safety boots and hammers which are in high demand recently.
Tai Kwong Hardware Trading occupies a pre-war double-storey shophouse at the first section of Jalan Petaling, near the intersection with Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Since its establishment in 1945, there has been no elaborate furnishings, only solid wooden shelves expanding upwards due to increasing inventory, and self-built mezzanine floors which made up the third and fourth floors. The five original founders (Soo, Lee, Chong, Kim, and Tan) all passed away, currently the second and third generations are in charge, with long-serving staff of 30-40 years, including loyal employees promoted to directorship.
Hardware trading covers a comprehensive range of materials, from large hardware such as sheet metal and construction materials, to small hardware such as tools and accessories, necessary in day to day life. Due to different target markets, large hardware resort to wholesale distribution while small hardware are sold retail. Tai Kwong is among the very few companies that operate both a retail shop selling small hardware and a warehouse selling large hardware such as bronze foil and lead sheets.
The early days of Tai Kwong’s establishment coincided with post-World War II reconstruction, hardware was in high demand, the founders had to carry heavy bags of cement on their shoulders to make deliveries to construction sites. Putting down firm roots in Petaling Street not only relied on their blood and sweat, but also their active thinking to bring in a wide variety of semi-finished hardware and appliances. Despite being strategically located, the shoplot does not have sufficient space for lorries to load and unload goods, therefore Tai Kwong set up a warehouse at Jalan Sungai Besi, later on relocated to Jalan Chan Sow Lin upon land reclamation for Mass Rapid Transit project.
In recent years, the major clientele has shifted from construction companies on credit terms to foreign labourers on cash terms. Tai Kwong’s long-standing reputation has a competitive edge, as customers feel at ease in making purchases. Due to the sizable variety and complexity of goods stocked, the front desk staff still practice handwritten bills and account ledgers, while utilizing a computer system to keep track of inventory. Certain items are considered out-of-date due to changing industrial standards and became slow-moving, therefore left to gather dust until collectors chance to come on a treasure hunt.
In ever-changing times, the business model must constantly evolve to suit changing consumer needs. It is a common understanding shared by sales and procurement manager Mr Lee Zhan Wei and finance director Mdm Liew Fui Tse. Eventually all in-store transactions will be computerized to reduce human errors. Taking a leaf from various traditional hardware tradings that achieved modernization, Tai Kwong is confident to succeed in doing so.
Hardware stores are essential in daily lives. Tai Kwong Hardware remain standing in Petaling Street for nearly eight decades, undergoing changes and transformation, supplying building materials as well as household necessities. Despite generational differences, business partners and staff share the same vision, working in cooperation towards a better future.
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen
COPYRIGHTS 2023 ECHINOIDEA SDN BHD