A walk down memory lane

Hip lifestyle hub Central: The Original Store in Charoen Krung has something for everyone whether young or old

Situated next to Charoen Krung 38, retail giant Central Group has turned its first-ever store into a new community space for loyal fans and young people to hang out and share their passions in Bangkok’s colourful creative district.

Central: The Original Store, which opened last month, is the work of renowned Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen and combines a cafe, a concept store, a library, jazz bar and a restaurant all under one roof to celebrate 1950s cultural heritage in a fresh context.

With a classy contemporary design, this five-storey complex is connected by a courtyard to an age-old two-storey house where visitors can travel back to the exact date in the 1950s when its founders Tiang and Samrit Chirathivat started their business from a bookstore. At that time, the store was known for its imported magazines and lifestyle products from the United States and Europe.

“Charoen Krung is Thailand’s first road and many things originated here. We brought our first store to life to pay homage to the histories of Central Group and the Charoen Krung neighbourhood. Central: The Original Store has been designed in such a way so that many generations can come to visit. It features a cafe, a retail space, a library and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef David Thompson,” said Barom Bhicharnchitr, a managing director of Central Embassy.

Walking through the entrance, visitors are greeted by Siwilai Cafe, which has a selection of aromatic coffee and fresh pastries while the floor-to-ceiling wall looks like a window display overlooking the bustling street and shophouses. The ground floor comes with terrazzo floors and high concrete ceilings are punctuated by wooden beams to create a cosy yet elegant atmosphere.

The store is also lined with shelves of retro imported books and magazines spanning multiple genres from music, arts, design, movies and fashion from the 1950s to 1970s from its archive such as Time, Look, Life, Collier’s and Sports Illustrated. Meanwhile, young shoppers can also check out the latest collection of trendy lifestyle products like T-shirts, tote bags, notebooks, stationery and pins.

Stepping inside, you can relax in a courtyard during the day before it morphs itself into a live room for the Siwilai Sound Club, which is a hybrid of Tokyo’s vinyl listening bars and NYC jazz club. Designed by the Japanese design studio Tripster, it features a piano and is surrounded by six Ojas 12 Coaxial speakers assembled by sound designer Devon Turnbull to evoke the energy of the New Road golden era. Upstairs, the adjacent vintage house is now home to the Audiophile Bar with a selection of 1,000 LPs and singles.

Back inside the main building, the Kolophon Retail Library takes over the second floor and serves more than 1,000 books and modern digital databases covering food, fashion, design and business. It is reserved for pay-per-use and members to take advantage of educational programmes and tailor-made research services.

“This library is a good source for startups and those interested in the retail business, food industry, design, supply chains, fashion and marketing. Customers can find both textbooks and online content from leading publishers like Bloomsbury Food in England. We provide several packages of research services, starting 1,500 baht for a three-page report,” said Shane Suvikapakornkul, a managing director of Serindia Enterprises.

On the third floor, Central Space presents the “Origins Of Central Since 1950” exhibition. It seems more like an autobiography book as it depicts Tiang and his son Samrit cruising from Hainan, China to Siam in 1927. The Chirathivat family settled in Thonburi and opened Keng Seng Lee in 1929 to sell coffee, made-to-order food, clothing and groceries.

Two decades later, they established Central Trading before setting up Central’s first shop in 1950. At that time, a few major retail stores in Bangkok sold merchandise from Hong Kong, Japan and Shanghai, so Samrit also offered customers a new option of new and back-numbered magazines from the US and Europe.

Following fashion trends from magazines, he expanded his product line to include brand-name socks, neckties, vests, pleated skirts and petticoats, making Central a popular shopping venue for overseas graduates, who were passionate in Western culture. Also on view is a collection of black-and-white photographs of Charoen Krung Road, which has been Bangkok’s major commercial hub for over a century.

On the fifth floor, Chef David Thompson serves an authentic five-course Thai dinner at his new restaurant Aksorn. Designed by Tripster, it has an open kitchen with indoor and outdoor dining spaces in a homey and relaxing atmosphere so it feels like you’re having a meal at home.

“The menu is changed every two months. Currently, we offer a selection of 13 Thai dishes based on the ancient recipe books from my archives such as spiced pork galantine, grilled tomato salad and red curry of beef with peanuts, Asian Citron and Thai basil,” Thompson said.

Central: The Original Store is located at 1266 Charoen Krung Road. It’s open daily from 10am to 6pm (except Monday), while the Aksorn restaurant runs from 6pm to 10pm and Siwilai Sound Club is available from 6pm to 1am. Find out more details at centraltheoriginalstore.com.

WRITER: PATTARAWADEE SAENGMANEE

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