Old building in Klang gets new life


Exterior of the old house built in 1928 with Blackstone Bakery Cafe at ground floor of the middle unit and Api House at its first floor.

NESTLED amid the historical streets of Klang in Selangor stands a timeless relic of the past, a weathered shophouse built in 1928 that whispers stories of generations gone by.

With some inspiration and investment, it has been rebirthed into something vibrant that breathes life into its ancient bones.

Simon Lim, 38, is one of the visionaries behind the transformation of this old building’s ground floor into the Blackstone Bakery Cafe.

Stepping inside the cafe located on Jalan Stesen 1, one is immediately enveloped in a cocoon of vintage charm.

Lim has preserved the essence of the pre-war shophouse, using wooden furniture reminiscent of our grandparents’ homes, and vintage fans that whir softly. The entrance is adorned with verdant potted plants.

Lim says they have to strike a delicate balance between the past and present.Lim says they have to strike a delicate balance between the past and present.Deliberate choices of soft whites, earthy greens and warm browns in its interior evoke a sense of harmony and nostalgia.

Lim said he had put effort into the choice of furniture, decorations and colours to capture that authentic kopitiam vibe.

But nostalgia alone cannot sustain the transformation.

Lim knew he had to marry tradition with modernity to appeal to the tastes of today’s generation.

“We have to strike a delicate balance, preserving the past while embracing the present.”

Apart from the traditional nasi lemak, tong shui and fragrant kopi, one can find a selection of artisanal cakes and speciality coffees.

But it has been a struggle to preserve this piece of history and the rustic charm.

“It’s an uphill battle. We’ve had to dig into our own pockets to keep this dream alive,” said Lim.

“In the face of adversity, the name ‘Blackstone’ echoes hope for me and my fellow friends to embody the persistence and resilience symbolised by the enduring strength of a black stone.”

At the end of the cafe, a steep wooden staircase lead to Api House, a sanctuary for the soul and a haven for local artisans.

Founded in 2022 by Loh Jean Lai and Lee Peiggy, Api House seeks to amplify the value of creativity and craftsmanship.

The name draws inspiration from the primal significance of fire – the universal symbol of warmth, hope and passion.

Exterior of Blackstone Bakery Cafe where it tries to marry tradition with modernity to appeal to the tastes of today’s generation. — Photos: ART CHEN/The StarExterior of Blackstone Bakery Cafe where it tries to marry tradition with modernity to appeal to the tastes of today’s generation. — Photos: ART CHEN/The Star

Divided into four distinct areas, Api House offers a multifaceted experience that mirrors the rich tapestry of Malaysian culture and craftsmanship.

The first area, a cozy nook among shelves of well-loved books, welcomes visitors to sit and lose themselves in the pages.

“It is a book exchange corner where used books are given a second life, and it is a way to foster a more sustainable way of reading,” said Lee.

Next to the book corner stands a table adorned with postcards, each one a canvas for positivity and connection.

Visitors are invited to leave words of encouragement, to spread kindness through the simple act of penning a message.

“We aspire to cultivate a positive community through this self-service corner,” said Lee.

At the heart of Api House is a treasure trove of up to 10,000 handicrafts from 100 local brands and Malaysian artists.

From hand-drawn postcards featuring every Malaysian’s childhood to crocheted jewellery, the shelves burst with colours.

Api House aims to serve as a gateway for visitors to learn about Malaysia’s rich heritage.

Loh and Lee expressed their hope that tourists would not only purchase local handicrafts as souvenirs but carry with them a deeper appreciation for Malaysian heritage.

Beyond the showcase, Api House is a space for connection and collaboration.

The rental area is ideal for workshops, seminars and impromptu gatherings – a place where visitors can chill.

For Lim, Loh and Lee, both Blackstone Bakery Cafe and Api House are more than just businesses.

They are a labour of love and a testament to their efforts in preserving the rich tapestry of Malaysian heritage for generations to come.

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