KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — As the sun sets on the country’s first shopping mall, a number of middle-aged men and women carrying “selfie-sticks” attached with their smartphones and DSLR cameras can be seen walking about the half-empty hallways of the Ampang Park Shopping Centre here.
Some came alone or as husband and wives, others with the entire family that span three generations.
For many of the mall visitors who spoke with Malay Mail, nostalgia was what brought them here today, before the lights are turned off permanently. Every step up and down the plaza or shoplot passed by was a walk down memory lane. The staircases, the two-way single-lane worn escalators, the atrium, everything told a story and held a memory.
“See the escalators? Back then the escalators only had single lanes,” 53 year-old Shah related.
“They were narrow and people thought it was unique. It was likely the only escalator in the city that can fit only a person.
“When we were kids we used come here all the time. We used to run up and down the escalators back then you only needed your imagination to be happy so it was a lot of fun just running up and down,” he added.
Shah, who has been frequenting the mall since it first opened in 1973, was among the hundreds that came to “savour” what was left of it before the authorities power down the building at midnight on the last day of 2017.
Ampang Park’s shutdown is meant to make way for an underpass that would connect the current Ampang Park LRT station to the upcoming MRT station just a few hundred yards away.
Consequentially, all traders have been forced to move out. Many of them have traded there for more than 40 years and while some may have the finances to shift their business to other locations, a few of them will be folding totally.
Ironically, the news that Ampang Park will be shutting down permanently has helped some of the struggling businesses there improve their profit margin with their stock clearance sales.
Several traders told Malay Mail that they have made more money in these last few days than the sales made during the peak shopping period leading up to seasonal festivals.
“I think we sold about 50 per cent more than puasa,” Weny, a shop assistant at Lesung Creation, a boutique specialising in traditional Malay clothing, said, referring to the Ramadan fasting month for Muslims before Hari Raya Puasa.
“The sales increased so much for the past few days because people heard we are closing, so I think they rushed in to exploit the sales”.
But not all traders have a happy ending. Those trading cost-intensive goods like electronic appliances or records say they suffered huge losses even as sales peaked since most of the remaining stocks were sold below cost price.
“You imagine the cost of price of a single CD is RM30. And CDs are not like clothing. Even if I reduce it to RM10, they won’t buy it because they just don’t like the music,” Tina, a shop supervisor at Love Music record shop told Malay Mail.
“So yes we may be able to sell off 80 per cent of our stocks, but at a huge loss,” she added.
Love Music, which has operated at Ampang Park since 1974, was once considered “legendary” for its eclectic collection to many of the city’s older music fans.
By 9pm tonight, the store will close its door to loyal customers forever. Tina said the losses amounted to six digits.
Shah, when approached by Malay Mail, was posing for a photo just outside Love Music together with a few people.
“Back then when I was a kid I used to come here and just hang outside the entrance to listen to the latest pop songs.
“They would usually play it loud so we can hear it from outside,” the 53 year-old, who almost shed a tear, said when asked about his fond memory of Ampang Park.
“I’m just really sad. So many good memories here. You won’t ever find a mall like this anymore.
“Unlike other malls, Ampang Park is the only place where the feeling has remained the same since the mall opened up. I feel calm here.”