93 Jalan Sultan, Singapore 198997
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Collecting Treasures of the Past


Name of business:

The Heritage Shop

Business Location:

93 Jalan Sultan, Singapore 198997

Business type:

Antiques and Collectibles


Early 1990s


The Heritage Shop began in the early 1990s out of Mr Patrick Phoa’s love for collecting. Since then, the business has grown together with his collection, offering people vestiges of their personal and collective pasts.

Sitting in a pocket of Jalan Sultan is a treasure chest left ajar, waiting to catch the eye of a curious passer-by with a glint of silver-gold from an old gramophone or silver plate. Advancing closer, a wall of faded postcards greets you from some distant past; while to the right, a mysterious stack of trunks piques your curiosity. As you step inside, a variety of antiques sit quietly in corners and dusty shelves, waiting for their stories to be uncovered.

In the centre of this trove is Mr Patrick Phoa, the collector and founder of The Heritage Shop. Collecting was always a passion for him; he recalls going to Sungei Road during his National Service days, keeping his eyes peeled for potential collectables. For young collectors, it was a “hunting and training ground…a place where I can learn.” But the effects of rapid urbanisation and resettlement during the 1970s to 1980s resulted in the relocation of peddlers to government-built markets. As a result, Mr Phoa had to turn to garage sales and newspaper advertisements to grow his collection.

As his collection grew larger, he began selling some of his items in garage sales, eventually turning it into a side business which he ran with the help of his brother. At a certain point, his preoccupation with collecting and selling antiques finally reached a tipping point. Despite his doubts and anxieties, he decided to quit his full-time job to focus on the business. Mr Phoa has never looked back since. 

Thus, The Heritage Shop’s journey began, albeit with many twists and turns. Learning how to identify genuine antiques was a learning curve for Mr Phoa. He also had to relocate five to six times before finally settling in Kampong Gelam, which he hopes will be its last home. Having been there for the past 20 years, he feels a strong affinity to the area. He hopes that other antique dealers will open in the vicinity so that more customers will spill over to his shop.

The Heritage Shop sees customers of all ages and backgrounds. Generally, the more experienced collectors are those with the resources and time to commit to a purchase. Young people who are just starting out often ask, “Uncle, what is interesting to collect?” His response is always, “worth or not it's not for someone to tell you ‘oh, this is worth,’ you know, ‘that is worth,’ because it is for you to decide.” For him, it was childhood toys like tikam-tikam and kuti kuti, items that young people may not relate to now. That is the beauty of collecting—being able to create a private gateway back to certain places and moments in one’s past. As Mr Phoa states, “[It] all depends on when their childhood falls”. The sense of magic you feel inside the shop can be attributed to the fact that every little plastic toy, stamp, bottle, or matchbox is like a trace of fairy dust, waiting to stir images of our past back to life.

As much as The Heritage Shop exists as a portal to our own pasts, it also serves as an archive for our nation’s collective history. Old Sinalco advertisements, Coca-Cola bottles, and floral tiffin carriers are just some of the objects that offer a glimpse into Singapore’s past. His advice for amateur collectors is to start by collecting local items, not just for their value, but because it is important for collectors to get in touch with our own country’s history before venturing to others.

The evolving landscape of antique markets is evident in the shift to online marketplaces such as Facebook and Carousell. Early on, Mr Phoa had listed some of his collectables on eBay, but he became inactive on the platform because it was too much work. According to him, Carousell is like the new Sungei Road, a place where people look for bargains and cheap finds. Even though he started out as a scavenger at the hunting ground, he has progressed into an established collector and dealer who takes pride in what he does. Thus, he prefers doing business in-person out of respect for his regular customers.

Having gone through his own journey, Mr Phoa now wishes to encourage young people to experience the joys of collecting. Going from shop to shop, travelling to remote locations, and manoeuvring through precariously stacked objects just to discover that one precious treasure—to him, the feeling is priceless.

Interviewed by Heng Su Li on 21 May 2022.