KUALA LUMPUR: It may just be 7.00am, but people are already crowding the Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz Food Court.
Located adjacent to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, the food court draws the breakfast crowd coming from the hospital, namely its staff and family members of patients.
However, the vast spread of Malaysian fares also never fails to attract loyal customers among office workers from nearby areas.
Here, one can see Malaysians of all races sitting together enjoying their food. As long as there is an empty seat, feel free to occupy it.
It is the 1Malaysia spirit at its best.
Here, sixty-five-year-old Zainuddin Abd Samat is no stranger to the regular patrons. His is the only different kind of stall right on the sidewalk of the food court.
However, it is not food that he promotes to passers-by, but all kinds of sharp paraphernalia such as parang, cleaver, knives, scissors, fruit picker and knife sharpeners.
The business has been his bread and butter for the last 17 years, and he diligently opens for business rain or shine.
“Initially I sold children’s toys. That was in 1998 after the economic downturn during which I was laid off from my job as a car salesman. Then I moved on to knives and such the year after,” Zainuddin recalled.
The trader born in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, explained that he slowly moved towards selling machetes and other cutters because of his love for the art of making machete blade covers.
Zainuddin said he focused on making the blade protector because it was a skill he acquired while living in the village in his early days.
“Let the expert make the parang. I’ll do what I’m good at and that is the cover for parangs, knives and even samurai swords,” he said.
Parang covers created by Zainuddin are usually custom ordered. His regular customers usually introduce his offerings to new clients.
The covers are made in a mini workshop located in his Subang Jaya home. He would start work after Isya’ prayers, diligently crafting his product for two to three hours each night.
A variety of wood are used, but among those frequently used include chengal, meranti, kempas and merbau.
According to Zainuddin, he was more comfortable using less expensive wood so the price of the finished product would not burden his customers.
A 12 inch (30.5 centimeters) parang complete with blade and cover is sold for RM160 each. The price may change depending on the size of the blade requested.
Covers for swords, such as samurai swords, prices can reach RM500 per piece.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
The wood he buys from his regular supplier come in the shape of boards. He then cuts and perforates the wood according to the size of the parang.
Wood glue is used to stick two parts of the cover and is given sufficent time to dry to ensure both sides of the wood are strongly fastened.
Then Zainuddin will trim the cover’s exterior to the required shape and thickness. Basically, minor detailing is done before the finished product is handed over to the buyer.
Using a grinder, he refines the shape of the parang and adds carvings. Once this process is done, varish is applied to give the cover a shine and seal the finished product.
“I usually promise customers their order will be ready in a week, but most of the time I can get it done in three or four days,” he said, adding that he would receive about 10 orders a month.
TIPS FOR THE YOUNG
Surviving 17 years in the business was no easy feat. Various obstacles had to be overcome, especially as a street trader.
“It is not easy to run a business, especially selling the things like what I am doing. You can’t just simply sell sharp equipment like this. There are times the enforcement authorities will come by, but I need to be patient and follow whatever order is given,” he said.
He also firmly believes in starting the business early in the day which is why his stall is up and ready by 7am, adding that this way he also beats the morning traffic congestion.
In facing today’s economic challenges, Zainuddin encourages the younger generation to make business a full-time or part-time source of income.
“Firstly, we need to be confident. Find a spot, choose your goods and capital no matter how little. Just start. Be determined, be interested and most of all be honest and sincere.
“When I say honest, mainly it’s about being honest with yourself and then we can be honest with others,” he advised.