THE Habib Heritage Gallery in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town, features an exquisite display of beautiful jewellery, making the gallery a must-visit section of the double-storey outlet.
Datuk Seri Meer Sadik Habib, managing director of the multiple award-winning jewellery brand, Habib Jewels, now known as Habib, said over 1,000 pieces of Jawi Peranakan jewellery, dating back to as far as 100 years, are displayed at the gallery.
“Some of the original Habib collection are also displayed at the gallery.
“Jewellery collectors used to come from different parts of the world to buy these pieces,” he said in an interview at the gallery recently.
Open to the public in 2012, the gallery sits on the top floor while the Habib jewellery showroom is located on the ground floor.
He noted that the building premises is one of the very few remaining Jawi Peranakan shophouses in Penang.
“We have restored this building and the wood you see here is all original.
“Those days, we used to live upstairs where this gallery is now while our jewellery shop is downstairs.
“I think we’re now sitting at where my bedroom used to be,” he quipped.
It was reported that the building underwent a RM1mil restoration.
It was the original Habib showroom established in 1958 by founder Datuk Habib Mohamed Abdul Latif.
From its humble beginnings, Habib has evolved into a household name in the country under the careful guidance and steady leadership of Meer, Habib Mohamed’s only son.
Meer left for United States to further his education and returned to join the family business in January 1986 after graduating with a degree in Business Administration from Wichita State University in Kansas.
He later qualified as a gemmologist from the world-renowned Gemological Institute of America.
“I grew up with the jewellery business ever since I was a little boy.
“I used to go and help my father even when I was a young kid,” he said.
“When I came back in 1986 after my studies, I joined the family business in Penang.
“At that time, the main business that we were doing here was whole-sale because jewellers from all over the country was buying jewellery from Penang and selling them in their stores,” he said.
Meer, however, found that the wholesale business was not very suitable for him.
“One of my favourite subjects in university was marketing.
“I wanted to deal directly with customers, talk to them, find out what exactly they like and engage directly with them,” he said.
In the same year he returned to join the family business, Meer opened the first Habib store in Kuala Lumpur in November.
“We are now celebrating our 30 years since our first store opened in Kuala Lumpur. And in two years, we’ll be celebrating our 60th anniversary since Habib was established in 1958 in Penang,” he said.
Meer said when he joined the business, he had reached customers through advertisements and radio campaigns at a time when no other jeweller contemplated these mediums.
“It was kind of unheard of for someone to do a lot of marketing and advertising in our industry,” he added.
“Our industry was quite traditional in that sense.
“No one would advertise in newspapers, magazines, television or radio, and that was something that I did,” he said.
“I was quite nervous because you had to spend a lot of money.
“So I had to convince my father that it’s not spending on our brand but instead we’re investing in it.
“He agreed when he saw the returns and that more customers were coming to our shop,” he said.
As for future plans, Meer is “quite hopeful” that the Habib legacy can be continued.
“My 22-year-old daughter is now studying gemology at the Gemological Institute of America where I went,” he said.
To date, Habib has 31 retail outlets throughout the country.