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Coastal Store, an independent music and bookstore-café, offers visitors a new place to discover the arts in Kuantan.
“Kuantan doesn’t have a big [arts] scene but it does exist,” says Arif Ramly of his hometown. “It is very niche – if you know, you know.”
The same can be said about the music and bookstore-café he runs with his cousin, Waqi along Kuantan’s Jalan Besar. While Coastal Store is on Facebook, the duo doesn’t actively utilise the platform to generate publicity. In fact, many visitors discover the venue purely through word of mouth, or at the local flea markets the store participates in.
Arif Ramly of Coastal Store.
“I prefer people to know about Coastal Store organically. I don’t like to create unnecessary expectations,” explains Arif.
Since opening in 2016, Coastal Store has become known for its eclectic mix of local and regional CDs, books and independent events. The walls and shelves are decorated with Arif and Waqi’s favourite things, heavily influenced by seminal surf film The Endless Summer.
Having previously worked at The Wknd – an online platform that highlights music around Southeast Asia – Arif says it was a natural progression for him to open Coastal Store after moving back to his hometown. He had always toyed with the idea of having a place where like-minded individuals could come together and collaborate, but it was only after brainstorming with Waqi that things started to take shape.
Waqi already had the perfect space; while he was using the back of a shop lot along Jalan Besar as a kitchen for Kula Cakes (a business he shares with his wife and a friend), the shopfront remained empty. With help from his friends in music and publishing, Arif gathered a collection of local and regional titles for the store. Soon, Coastal Store was born.
Today, the store gets a bulk of its music from homegrown and regional labels like Malaysia’s Soundscape Records and Basement Records, demajors from Jakarta, and Panda Records from Bangkok. Arif also receives personal submissions by unsigned musicians, while books are sourced from Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia, Subtext Studio and Gerak Budaya. For surfers, Coastal Store stocks a few surf accessories from their friends at Minor Surfwax – Arif jokes that most surfers only come by to look for wax.
Some of the music titles available at Coastal Store.
Being an avid music fan, Arif made it a point to create a listening station for customers to properly enjoy the music on offer. He recalls a customer from Penang who visited over a few consecutive days to listen to his recommendations, eventually leaving with a stack of new music. Arif smiles, “I want people to know that I am [genuinely] giving them recommendations.”
Books are sourced from Institut Terjemahan and Buku Malaysia, Subtext Studio and Gerak Budaya.
“Getting people interested in the arts is similar to fishing,” he says, explaining that with the arts, you first need something for them to get curious about. In that regard, book readings and acoustic gigs are common at Coastal Store, which have seen the likes of Azmyl Yunor and Francis Wolf perform. Through these events, locals have another outlet to discover the arts.
According to Arif, the Kuantan Book Exchange initiative, in which Coastal Store is a participant, has helped to develop more interest in reading amongst the younger crowd. The café’s mini-library also gives visitors another opportunity to discover something new.
While having a café was never part of the plan, Arif now sees that it does attract more people. “We wanted to have a record store and bookstore with minimal setup, serving just drinks. But after a while our friends started saying, ‘how to lepak if got no food?’”
As a result, they developed a modest menu that includes Arif’s homemade chicken rice, freshly brewed coffee, pastries, and cakes by Kula Cakes.
While Coastal Store’s existence is a significant contribution to Kuantan’s arts scene, it’s not what Arif consciously thinks about when running the store. Like the laidback surf culture they advocate, he and Waqi don’t bother with labels. Instead, they encourage people to drop by the store without any expectations and “see for themselves”.
Address: Coastal Store, 4E Jalan Besar, 25000 Kuantan, Pahang (013 990 6208). Open Tue-Sun, 12pm-11.45pm. Browse through the catalogue at www.coastalstore.com.my.
Text and photos by Stacy Liu
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