THE year was 1926 and Johor Baru was a bustling state capital by the Straits of Johor. Rows upon rows of shophouses lined the streets leading up to the Causeway.
|Johore Central Store staff (from left) Siti Alfizah Karim and Abdul Munaf Abdul Hamid at the store in Jalan Ibrahim.|
|The original Johore Central Store, which was then known as the Central Store during the 1960s.|
|The store still has a decent stock of local and imported magazines as well as a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books.|
|The founder of the Johore Central Store book shop, the late Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Shah.|
Amid the hustle and bustle downtown, a small shop selling newspapers and cigarettes opened its doors for the first time in Jalan Ibrahim.
Known as the Central Store, the shop expanded through the years and became a major supplier of text books for most schools in southern Johor.
The modest shoplot became a private limited company and changed its name to Johore Central Store (JCS) in 1973.
Besides the four-shoplot flagship store in Jalan Ibrahim, JCS, as it was known to its customers in the 1980s, operated mini-bookshops in eight schools around Johor Baru.
Those who studied in government schools in the city during the late 1970s until early 1990s may remember these school bookshops that sold everything: text books, exercise books, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka magazines and stationery.
Schools that had a JCS-managed bookshop included SMK Infant Jesus Convent, English College, Sultan Ibrahim Girls School, Sekolah Temenggong Abdul Rahman, SMK Dato Jaafar, SMK Sultan Ismail and SMK Saint Joseph.
Johore Central Store Sdn Bhd director Abd Wahid V. S. Ghany said that his decision to go big on school text books turned out to be a profitable one.
"From a bookstore selling newspapers and magazines, we expanded the business to include text books.
"It proved to be a move which turned the company around," said Wahid, who took over the store from his father-in-law, Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Shah.
Wahid began helping out at the store after he moved to Johor Baru from Singapore with his wife in 1960.
Wahid's parents had befriended Majid through the spice trade -- Wahid's father had a spice shop in Market Street, Singapore while Majid had a spice shop in Jalan Segget, Johor Baru.
Their business relationship led to marriage between Wahid and one of Majid's daughters, Rogayah.
"My family had sons, while Datuk Majid's family had daughters. Our parents played matchmaker and I was married to Rogayah at the end of 1958.
"My father-in-law was managing two stores -- a book shop and a spice shop. Whenever he went off to man the spice shop, he would ask me to take over at the bookshop," said Wahid, 76.
Besides school books, the store sold imported magazines and newspapers sourced from local as well as agents in London and Sydney.
British newspapers Daily Mirror and Daily Sketch were among the bestsellers back then.
A long-time staff at the store, Mohidin Hamid, said expatriates from Singapore's naval base used to get their weekly supply of magazines from the store.
"Families of British naval officers drove over from Woodlands to buy magazines for the entire family.
"I would help wrap up large stacks of magazines like Women's World and motoring magazines for them. Their children would insist on Dandy, Beno, Beezer and Topper," said Mohidin, who has worked for the store for more than 40 years.
The store still has a decent stock of local and imported magazines from Britain and Australia. There is also a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books at the store.
Wahid recalls many dignitaries stopping by at the shop. He said Sultan Iskandar of Johor, who was Raja Muda in the 1960s, used to park his sports car outside the bookshop to collect his order of motoring magazines.
Many children who frequented the shop for school books have grown up to become prominent figures in the government and private sectors.
Sadly, business slowed down after Wahid began focusing on contracts to supply books for public libraries in several states.
The contracts soon overshadowed much of their business in school text books by the 1990s.
It was during this time that Wahid opened a branch in Plaza Kotaraya in 1991. In 2000, he opened a third outlet at the Sultan Ismail Airport terminal in Senai.
Despite the expansion, Wahid claimed that sales have dropped by 50 per cent since the diversion of traffic due to the construction of the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex, which is located further away from the city centre.
He said 20 per cent of his customers were Singaporeans who liked to buy books in Johor due to the low prices.
The store could earn up to RM30,000 a month in sales 25 years ago. It now records sales of between RM5,000 and RM6,000 from its three outlets.
Wahid, who also owns a petrol station, said the store's Plaza Kotaraya branch may be closed down to cope with the financial contraints.
To keep the business afloat, Wahid plans to open another store in Jalan Yahya Aldatar, which is a main thoroughfare for traffic out of the new CIQ complex.
Abdul Munaf Abdul Hamid, who has been working at the store for 32 years, said the store still had a small group of loyal customers.
"Many lawyers and students still come by the shop to buy law books. Though text book sales are down, there are some customers who rely on us for magazines."
Munaf had also helped to run some of the mini-bookshops at schools during the 1980s. Today, he is often seen helping out at the Jalan Ibrahim store.
*artikel ni dipetik dari NST semalam. Dulu liza selalu beli novel kat sebuah kedai buku yang bernama 'Pustaka Sri Jaya' di jalan segget. Rupa-rupanya pustaka sri jaya tu branch dia...tapi sekarang pustaka sri jaya dah takde lagi, jadi liza dan family kalau nak beli buku terus ke JCS jalan Ibrahim atau Kotaraya.... macam-macam ada....dapat diskaun lagi....
pengasas JCS yaitu Allahyarham Datuk Abdul Majid b. Ahmad Shah juga merupakan pengasas Masjid India di tengah2 bandar johor bahru tu... (berdekatan dengan Plaza Kotaraya) sekarang masjid tu pun dah di upgrade. kini...segala usaha beliau telah diambilalih oleh menantunya....liza tak berkesempatan bertemu dengan Allahyarham kerana beliau meninggal dunia semasa en.shah kecil lagi. cuma Allahyarhamah nenek je yang liza sempat jumpa dan Allahyarhamah pun sempat kenal dengan anak2 kami. selalu dengar cerita tentang Allahyarham Datuk Majid dari en.shah...bagaimana jerih payahnya Allahyarham membina perniagaan sehingga sampai ke tahap ini.
Satu lagi, keturunan en.shah ni lain sikit dari segi nama. maksudnya..nama nenek..datuk dan moyang akan digunapakai semula oleh generasi seterusnya...kira macam recycle jugaklah... macam nama en.shah tu diambil sempena nama bapa kepada Allahyarham Datuk Majid. nama Allahyarham pula telah digunapakai oleh sedara en.shah yang lain. cuma ditambah shah sahaja dibelakangnya..jadilah Abdul Majid Shah. Nama anak2 liza pun tak terkecuali seperti Rabiatul Insyirah. Rabia tu sempena nama nenek en.shah. liza cuma tambah TUL jek. mamat pulak...Muhammad Salleh Shah sempena nama datuk en.shah sebelah bapa yaitu Mohd Salleh. cuma liza tambahkan Shah je di belakangnya....Danish?? dari A sampai Z liza bagi nama dia. takde campur tangan dari mana-mana pihak. hehehe....
yelah....bukan apa, dah cukup pening bila berkumpul sedara mara, satu nama tu kadang-kadang melibatkan 3-4 orang...nama recyclelah katakan.....Pi Mai..Pi Mai..Tang Tu...jugak.
Al-Fatihah Buat kedua-dua Allahyarham Datuk dan Allahyarhamah nenek en.shah....