Setting up shop amid the seedy karaoke joints and noisy Korean eateries of Tanjong Pagar says something about you as a proprietor. In the case of newbie art-bookscafé space The Pigeonhole, it’s that you’re not afraid to do things differently.
Pre-loved books, furniture and fresh flowers dress an otherwise raw alcove carpeted in fire-engine red. There’s a drum set in a corner, a wooden counter displaying unconventional beers, a self-sufficient terrarium, and the entire shop is bathed in low lighting. The Pigeonhole, which recently hosted its official launch party, is the kind of hybrid establishment that you might expect off Arab Street or in Little India; not here. But this area around Duxton Hill is currently in the midst of a full-blown renaissance, and so what better place to set up an alternative space like this?
“Right now, the café is not open for business because of licensing issues. But if you come by to see the place for yourself and have a chat with us, of course we’ll serve you drinks. It’s the same when we open. I’m not going to push you to order something. If what you like is to sit down and work on your laptop with just a glass of water, we’re fine with it,” says co-owner and former lawyer Ave Chan.
Her boyfriend Rayner Lim, erstwhile film editor, explains how the space was put together. “Everything you see here, from the things we offer to the décor, reflects all the things we like. We source all the books from India and the UK. There’s no specific genre. We just show our picks to each other and agree on them.”
Their taste is certainly eclectic. On the shelves can be found Selected Works of Kim Il Sung, Vol. IV, The Book of Miso: Food for Mankind and Does Pornography Matter?—definitely not your average book titles. The owners’ eye for bargain collectibles also extends to the furniture. “This green lounge chair is a crowd favorite. We got it at The Salvation Army for $70 or $80. It’s amazing what you can find when you take the time to go to each outlet and scour their stuff,” Lim reveals. “Our friends also like the baby chairs, all bought from The Salvation Army.”
But this multi-faceted establishment is not just a place for people to hang around and sip drinks, browse books and daydream (although it’s definitely perfect for that). It also hosts events such as their Sunday Eclectica flea market (2nd and 4th Sunday of each month), Music Camp SG (Mar 19, 2pm), the ingenious Powerpoint KTV (Mar 31, 7:30pm), as well as talks co-organized with NGOs. “The key word here is ‘collaboration’,” says Lim. “We want to collaborate with event partners, not just rent the space out to them. I envision this to be a place where artists from various fields come together to meet and share ideas. We also want to participate in movements with NGOs, like in our Wednesday discussions with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).”
All of this was borne out of simple frustration. “I’d only been practicing for less than two years and was complaining incessantly about my job when Rayner suggested I quit,” says Chan. He asked me to think carefully about what I’d always wanted to do and this was it.”
The Pigeonhole is located at 52-53 Duxton Rd. Standard operating hours have yet to be announced. Contact them via email@example.com or through www.facebook.com/ThePigeonhole.