New Chinese-language bookstore opens in Tanjong Katong

The books range from home-grown reads to titles from Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.
The books range from home-grown reads to titles from Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The sun rises in the east, and so, from Wednesday (Sept 8), will a new bookstore in Tanjong Katong Road.

Sea Breeze Books is named for its locale, which used to be on the coast before land reclamation. It is opened by the co-founders of home-grown firm TrendLit Publishing - Mr Ang Jin Yong, 30, Mr Pang Jing Perng, 36, Ms Tan Boon Hui, 30, and Mr Andy Ang, 34.

Ms Tan and the two Mr Angs met while studying Chinese in Nanyang Technological University and have for the past nine years published the literary magazine Why Not... They also edited the 2018 anthology Never Before - 50 Essential Poems, which covers 50 years of lesser-known Singaporean Chinese poetry. Mr Pang joined them last year.

Earlier this year, they all quit their jobs to run the bookstore and publishing firm full time.

Mr Andy Ang, who was formerly a teacher, acknowledges that it was a daunting decision to make in the midst of a global pandemic.

"It's a very uncertain time. No one knows what's going to happen next. All of us, be it retail or F&B, are very worried that the regulations might tighten and we might have to close again.

"But the books and publishing market was already slowing down, so any new injection into the market will make the scene more vibrant. During this time, we always hear bad news about Covid-19 cases or shops shutting down, so if there's something good coming up, it's a positive outlook for the whole literary scene."

The four pooled together a six-figure sum from their savings to open the bookshop, a space of more than 300 sq ft on the second floor of a shophouse.

Visitors will find some 1,000 titles, mostly Chinese and in the fields of literature, humanities and social sciences, as well as the two shop cats, Lychee and Peach.

The books range from home-grown reads - there are shelves dedicated to late local literary giants Yeng Pway Ngon and Kuo Pao Kun - to titles from Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

TrendLit is the exclusive distributor here for Hong Kong publishers such as Spicy Fish, Manuscript Publishing and the Hong Kong Film Critics Society.

The bookstore also carries TrendLit's latest Chinese titles by Singaporean authors, such as Wang Mun Kiat's poetry collection Short Tongue and Teo Kok Keong's short story collection The Girl Who Walks Through Walls.


Sea Breeze Books co-founders: (from left) Mr Andy Ang, Mr Ang Jin Yong, Ms Tan Boon Hui and Mr Pang Jing Perng. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Though the pandemic has shuttered many a bookstore here - this year's casualties include two Times Bookstores and the temporary closure of Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop - it has not all been bad news.

In February this year, China bookstore chain Zall opened its first overseas branch in Orchard Road.

Epigram Books rallied last month with a pop-up in Beach Road, while its neighbour Wardah Books in Bussorah Street was last week named International Bookshop of the Month by prominent academic publisher Yale University Press.

Though the east of Singapore is less known today for its literary associations, Tanjong Katong was once home to Chinese-language bookstores like the now-defunct Oasis Book Store in the 1960s, which was at almost the same address as Sea Breeze is today.

Sea Breeze seeks to give the literary community an eastern foothold once more. With the easing of restrictions, it hopes to start hosting events. Outside of pandemic regulations, the bookstore can hold 40 to 50 people.

Says Mr Pang: "It's not just a bookstore. It's basically an open space for anyone who wants to meet the community, communicate and share ideas. Writers can use the space for writing. Or you could just mingle with the cats and the books."

Sea Breeze Books is open at 366A Tanjong Katong Road from 11am to 8.30pm daily. For more information, go to seabreezebooks.com.sg