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Profiling | THE CORNER SHOP

If Doraemon’s yojigen-pocket translated into a slightly-less-than-dysfunctional, physical store; it would without a doubt be “The Corner Shop”. The shop offers a myriad of surprises. By today’s standards, you would have thought that you have seen your fair share of cool shops with eccentric offerings, but trust me; The Corner Shop sets the bar higher than high.

Walking into the shop, you’d immediately notice one thing: the shop is peppered with little adornments everywhere. This only enhances the shop’s image as a treasure trove of sorts. Apart from the collection of extremely good looking clothing that The Corner Shop stocks, expect to chance upon the unexpected. Queen Amidala, 1,000 tonne hammers and primary school chaptehs (a traditional game, read more HERE) are just a small part of the bounty of quirky items you can find there.

ActuallyMAG meets Jebson, one of the geniuses behind The Corner Shop, and he lets us in on how they are able to speak the language of cool, and also reveals his crush. Juicy.

Hiho Jebson, how did you start your day this morning?

Jebson: Today? Hmm. Just recovered from a bout of flu… so it’s feeling a bit gloomy lah. Virus attacks… *shrugs*

If it’s any consolation, mine’s no better. Let’s start off with you telling us more about yourself. What were you doing before Corner Shop?

J: I was a fashion merchandizer for a local company before I moved on to this. And I had experience working a few stores before starting Corner Shop.

So where do you see yourself if not for Corner Shop?

J: Probably still climbing the corporate ladder I suppose.

The laidback Jebson as he cooly chats with us

What’s your background? Has it always been fashion?

J: Not really, it hasn’t always been fashion and merchandizing. Music too, has been a large part of my life. I was in the military band back when I was serving my National Service. But then I figured that my rockstar dreams were probably over when I reached 21. *laughs*

A day in your life, what occurs?

J: Whoa… there’re really quite a few factors that come into play. Firstly, it depends if it’s a busy weekend or a regular weekday. And we have a lot of stock as well, because we do not only sell apparel; we have toys, vinyls, caps… we have so much stuff that it’s hard for me to describe them all. It’s probably best for you to come and take a look yourself to understand what I mean.

And what’s your favourite music now?

J: I enjoy all genres. But I currently have this crush on singing icon, Berlinda Carlisle. It’s from the retro 80’s era, but you’ll definitely know her song. You know Mambo night, right? They’ll almost always play her song. ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’? Yeah! Other than that I like alternative indie bands such as ‘The National’ and ‘Frightened Rabbits’.

What or who are your main inspirations?

J: Honestly, I don’t really have any man. There wasn’t anything that really inspired me but I just knew that I had to open a store like Corner Shop. Maybe it’s the competitiveness of this area, or maybe it’s because of the past few stores I had that closed down; I just simply knew I had to do something like that. I wanted to sell anything I want, without having to burden myself with the novelty and significance of a brand name.

I find that having a brand name restricts your ability to sell the stuff you have in mind. For example, if you were an atas (meaning exclusive or high classed) shop, you cannot sell stuff like toys… or sex toys for the matter (Corner Shop sells sex toys. Awesome, much?). You know what I mean? It just won’t fit the image. Whereas with our name, ‘Zha Huo Tian’ (which directly translates to a ‘convenience store’), I can simply sell anything I like.

Just one of Corner Shop's many cheeky displays

So how does the partnership between you and your partner Jack work?

J: As Jack has a graphic background, he is the ‘executor’, and I’m leaning more towards the creative department.

So what do you think is the important ingredient for maintaining a partnership?

J: Ahhh this. Sensitive topic eh? In my opinion, it’s important that you accommodate and give in to one another. Also, I think it’s best that you find a partner who’s a complete opposite of yourself.

And I have been wondering, how did the name ‘Corner Shop’ come about?

J: After the name ‘Zha Huo Dian’ was conceived, I had to come up with an English name to complement it. And because the shop is literally in the corner, that’s how and why ‘Corner Shop’ came about!

Pretty quirky, I’d say. So what’s the ideology behind the Corner Shop? What drives it?

J: I don’t know anything about quirkiness, or being unique; I just want to sell everything that I like. I’m not trying to be ‘unique’ or anything. But that’s why I started Corner Shop.

How do you think your store differs from the rest?

J: The fact that we sell a bunch of different items. This one ideology always comes to my mind: mooncake festival, I can sell mooncakes; Chinese New Year, I can sell Ang Paos. I can sell anything to anybody from different backgrounds on different occasions; and that defines Corner Shop.

We really meant it when we said you could find Queen Amidala at The Corner Shop

So what’re the plans for your store in the near future?

J: We’ve been thinking of setting up a website, as there were quite a number of people who have been enquiring for it. Then came JWT, an international ad agency, who approached us and offered to do our website, and that they were planning to send it for a competition when it’s done. I’ve seen the website and it looks pretty cool; and it even has an iPhone app for it. So… that’s pretty special to us, and I’m really thankful to this group of people who are supportive of the store.

Your friends like you because?

J: Uh… my naiveté? *laughs*

– Text by Toke, Images by Izuan

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