Sabah’s oldest book store shuts as chains in malls win

tungnangbookstorKOTA KINABALU: Straight out of the Hollywood movie You’ve Got Mail, a privately-owned book store in Sabah has been forced to wind-up after conceding defeat to bigger book store chains in shopping malls there.

Tung Nan Book Store, owned and operated for over 50 years by husband and wife team – Edward Wong, 82 and Winnie Fung, in her 70s – will officially close for good on March 31.

Speaking to The Borneo Post, Winnie said, “We can no longer compete with the bookshops in shopping malls.

She said the Tung Nan Book Store was established by her late father-in-law, George in 1952 and was previously located in Jesselton West Coast before relocating to its present spot 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 said, adding that when not in school, her husband often helped out at the book store.

Winnie explained that Tung Nan Book Store was among the first few in Sabah to bring in English books published by Longman and Oxford in England after the Education Department sponsored them to a book fair in London. The books were imported 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 Borneo Post quoted Winnie as saying.

Folks who have heard that the book store is shutting down have hurried over for a visit, and reminisced of old times when they would buy her books or read comics at the store.

She said that although her husband was adamant to keep the business going, her children felt that the big book stores in shopping malls were too big a force to contend with.

“We close at 5pm and on Sundays. And the parking here is inconvenient,” Winnie said, explaining that those in shopping malls were open till late 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, The Borneo Post said.