KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — When word got out that the Lee Rubber Building in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee had been put up for sale last November, the foremost question among those familiar with the place was, “Where would Peter go?”.
Peter Hoe Evolution and Beyond had been calling the Art Deco building home for 13 years, offering an enthralling treasure trove of products that never failed to delight, within a sprawling 8,600 square feet space.
“I wasn’t fazed by the news,” says Peter. “I knew that it would be difficult to find a place that could match the style of the brand, and I didn’t want to rush it. The landlord gave us one year’s notice.” Could he find a new home that would fit in his amazing assortment of designs?
The answer was revealed last month when Peter Hoe at The Row officially opened. For regulars and return shoppers, the anticipation is over and the first impressions of the new space are, well, impressive.
Although only about half the size of its previous premise, it doesn’t feel that way because Peter has maintained the variety of goods, and that same cosy and rustic ambience that encourages curious browsing.
Step in and the first thing that catches your attention is the high pointed roof with black metal fittings. Simple yet striking, it seems to pull your senses into one direction before they get scattered around as you take in the spread of colours and textures around you.
That distinct “sensory overload”, as Peter calls it, has not missed a beat; in fact, the iconic “Great Wall of Cushions” is still there. In short, the DNA that is the Peter Hoe brand remains intact.
Peter points out several features, subtle but significant, of the space that adds to that comforting familiarity. If you remember his former store, you will notice these common highlights: Housed in a building that is rife with architectural character, windows all around that let in natural light, and a cement floor that creates a minimalist contrast to the colourful products. A plus point and one that brings Peter the most joy is to look out those windows and see the trees outside.
Truly, Peter Hoe at The Row is in its rightful place and Peter is pleased as punch. “Change is good, as long as you embrace it positively. I think we have transitioned well — even the products seem very happy here, the colours pop up more!”
It almost didn’t come to be, however. Peter stumbled upon the place around March this year when he had gone to Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur to meet with a supplier.
Afterwards, walking around the area that he had not visited for a long while, he noticed it looked different from its days as Asian Heritage Row.
It was as if a gentrification process had taken place. Peter walked into Wheel Love, a skate shop, to ask if they might know who the owner is. And that was the start of his “many doors opening” story.
“It was a case of one door opening and leading to the next, and it all happened by chance and luck. The guy at the skate shop told me that the company that owns The Row, Urbanspace, has their office at a building just across — that was the first door. I walked across and asked the security guard, who told me to head up to the 11th floor. That was the second door,” Peter relates. “The third door was walking into their office and the owner, William Ng, was there. I told myself, there’s something to this...”
Ng then brought Peter to the very space his shop now occupies, to meet his Singaporean business partner who happened to be in town. Peter didn’t like the unit at first, as he felt that one portion of it was too dark. After deliberating, he realised that a smaller unit next door would be ideal for his cafe, but the two spaces must be connected for a seamless experience. “Urbanspace then built a small bridge that connects the two spaces – that was the fifth door,” Peter reveals.
After that, it was a matter of packing up and moving in. Given his massive inventory, you can imagine the scale of that undertaking. First, Peter had to specially order cartons that could fit 20 kilograms load each.
Every day beginning end May, he and his staff would fill them up with his myriad products, cordoning off sections of the store bit by bit as they cleared the shelves and benches. They ended up with more than 1,200 cartons and took over 30 trips within a two-week period to shift everything into the new space.
You would think that he probably had an army of movers shuttling back and forth but in reality, it was four Bangladeshi guys from the moving company plus Peter himself and several staff members — he even roped in his window cleaner!
As the building does not have lifts, they had to trudge up and down a flight of stairs. The unpacking and setting up took another week, which Peter said was actually the easiest part as he had a clear vision as to how the new store would look.
But while that was going on, Peter had one other thing he needed to do. “I believe it’s important to bring life into the new space right away, so I hosted a dinner for a group of 30 friends.” Guests sat among his vibrant wares, surrounded by unopened boxes. The following week, several regular customers called to ask for a preview, eager to sneak a peek into the new store.
Peter Hoe at The Row opened on August 15 as a new chapter of the brand’s history, which began 26 years ago, and a rebirth of sorts — including for Peter personally. “Having to move out of the old space has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, it’s changed everything... Peter Hoe the brand has gone from Beyond to Evolution, and now this.
“Even coming to work each day feels different and on my recent trip to India to meet my regular suppliers, I found myself having a new perspective on things. The colour palette that I chose for the next collection is very different from what you see now.”
You’ll have to wait till next year to know and see what that new spectrum is, as the products are manufactured exclusively for his brand and thus, takes time. For now, there’s more than enough to keep even the most finicky shopper happy.
“Currently, we carry the same product range as before. I’ll let it run for a few months and see how it goes, see if the products are happy... through feelings and instincts, I get feedback from the products themselves.”
Meanwhile, the general feedback is unanimous: Peter Hoe is back and better than before.
Welcome to the Peter Hoe Cafe
Having a hard time deciding what NOT to buy at Peter Hoe? Take a breather at the adjacent Peter Hoe Cafe, connected by a small pedestrian bridge through a side door in the shop.
While the former is an explosion of colours and textures, the cafe is bright, airy, and uncluttered.
At the old store, the cafe occupied a small corner and could seat up to 30 people. This new space is bigger, with capacity for 50 people.
The cafe’s name may be kept as such but Peter has actually handed the reins over to his nephew, Joshua Yap, who has been working at the store since completing his SPM.
He started managing the kitchen in 2009, learning the ropes from his uncle and experimenting on his own to understand how food works. Joshua’s youngest brother Jeremy also helps out at the cafe, marking three of the Yap
brothers’ foray into the F&B industry — eldest brother Jonathan is a chef at Wynn Macao — while Joshua’s twin, Justin, is a fashion designer.
The menu remains the same: Four variants of their creamy quiches that are hailed as Klang Valley’s best, pastas, salads, soups and homemade cakes. Serving hours have been extended, with lunch now available from 12pm-4pm.
“Everything is made fresh and from scratch, which is why we can’t start hot food service before noon,” says Joshua (the quiches and cakes are available from opening time). He is also particular about the quality of ingredients, explaining that he always strives to deliver the best and that it’s not just about making a profit.
Joshua candidly describes their strawberry cheesecake as “the second best... unfortunately, after we had perfected the recipe, the supplier told us that the cheese we wanted was no longer available. So we’ve had to settle for another.”
The cafe now also runs dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6pm-10pm, and Joshua is working on a new menu that will include meatier options.
Peter Hoe at The Row
56-1, 1st Floor, The Row, Jalan Doraisamy, Kuala Lumpur
Tel (cafe) 012-334 7123
Opens 10am-7pm daily
From Chinatown to The Row, Peter Hoe remains on Vivian Chong’s ‘Happy Place’ list. Read about her other happy places at http://thisbunnyhops.com/