Tabiyo Shop: A place for designer notebooks and stationery… in Seremban!
SEREMBAN, April 30 — Tabiyo Shop — tabiyo means “let’s travel” in Japanese — began as an online business in 2012. “I wanted to start a business instead of working for others for the rest of my life. I thought the easiest way to start was through an online shop because it involves less capital,” said Lam Yen Fong, a former interior designer from Seremban.
She partnered with her friend Mak Lee Ming who is based in Japan.
Yen Fong knew that she needed to find a niche for her online business to remain relevant in the market. Rather than sell clothes, she was looking to stock a unique product unavailable in Malaysia.
Coincidentally, a friend had gifted Yen Fong a book about journals and from that book, she discovered traveller’s notebooks. Being somewhat obsessed with notebooks herself, she fell in love with the whole idea.
“I like things that have aesthetics, are pretty and of good quality.” With this in mind, the two partners decided to look for a unique notebook in Japan. Through research, Yen Fong discovered the popular Traveler’s Notebook that used to be under the Midori brand.
These notebooks are a cult favourite with stationery collectors and travellers for its leather-bound covers and their various customisable inserts. At that time, there was no local distributor for these notebooks even though there were many who coveted it.
“I’m actually very glad to see that there is a Traveler’s Notebook fan base in Malaysia. They (customers) are very happy that we are selling it. They find out about us through word of mouth and Instagram,” said Yen Fong who also uses the notebook when she travels. It is her faithful companion when she is on a vacation; she stores her memories in the form of photos, mementos and even dried flowers.
Since they started, Tabiyo Shop has had two pop-ups in 2012 and 2013 to meet up with fans of the notebook. They also bring in highly sought after items such as the limited edition 10th anniversary notebooks where miniature versions of the iconic leather bound notebooks are contained in various coloured tins.
The shop also carries the recently launched Olive Edition notebooks with ballpoint pen and a matching pen holder. They also stock Traveler’s Company’s bestselling brass stationery collection including the just-launched brass fountain pen.
Since then, Tabiyo Shop has also added more brands to enlarge their collection of quality and designer stationery. This includes brands like MT masking tapes, Mark’s Inc and Classiky. Most of the brands are from Japan with the exception of Paperphine from Vienna, Written Word Calligraphy from Canada, Tools to Liveby from Taiwan, and Grey Ray from Thailand.
Their latest addition is Kaweco pens. The German brand is sought after for its pens that also include the world’s smallest fountain pen, the Kaweco Lilliput. In the future, Yen Fong is considering introducing home and living products to complement the current collection. The bigger items that cannot be shipped will become in-store exclusives.
Each purchase in Tabiyo Shop is also incredibly special as it will be beautifully wrapped by Yen Fong. It is one of her hobbies and she uses designer paper and Japanese washi tape.
The packages are sealed using an old-fashioned wax seal sourced from the Written Word Calligraphy from Canada. Customers often email Yen Fong to thank her for the beautiful packaging.
For online purchases, the majority of their international orders is from the US since Japan usually doesn’t do international shipping. Prices for the products listed on Tabiyo Shop range from RM6 for a washi tape to RM720 for a Classiky Oak Wood Sewing Box.
Their prices are comparable to Japan’s despite the exchange rate fluctuations as Yen Fong has not increased her prices. According to Yen Fong, her customers have no complaints about their prices. She adds, “I think they know what they are buying. The price is worth it because it’s good quality and you can use it for a very long time. The value of the product is there.”
Both the online and physical stocks are monitored using Shopify which also helps Tabiyo Shop keep track of the products. For fast selling products, Yen Fong makes sure they are restocked once a month. The Traveler’s Notebook in regular size is the best-seller while the grid and blank inserts are popular too.
If you are looking for an adventure to fill up your own notebook, make a trip to Tabiyo’s store in Seremban which opened last October. You will be rewarded with hand drip coffee prepared by Yen Fong using Bean Shipper beans as you browse through their beautiful displays peppered with fresh and dried flowers.
If you prefer, there is also hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. The space is also a lovely one with natural sunlight streaming through the windows.
According to Yen Fong, the previous occupant was an old-school stationery shop that sold textbooks and newspapers as well as school supplies. The uncle who owned the shop ran it for the past 50 years before he retired. In memory of those old days, she has also retained the previous owner’s antique wooden furniture.
Despite working in Singapore and KL, Yen Fong still prefers her hometown hence her decision to set up Tabiyo Shop here. The shop also doubles up as Yen Fong’s workspace.
On weekends, her husband helps her man the shop. “I hope by setting up a shop in Seremban I can boost the tourism a bit. After I set up my store, I attracted quite a lot of people from KL, Malacca and JB, because usually not many people want to come to Seremban, right?”
As their items are rather niche, it has attracted a following who are willing to travel here to shop. Don’t forget to also pick up their complimentary Seremban map too which has information of places to visit and where to eat. The illustrated map is hand drawn and designed by Yen Fong.
92, Jalan Dato Bandar Tunggal, Seremban
Open: 11am to 5pm (Wednesday to Sunday)