Bangsar concept store for watches and coffee

I am a heavy smartwatch user because I like to have my phone extension strapped to my wrist. But if it’s not a smartwatch, it has to look classy, ​​like a statement piece that’s good enough as an accessory with any outfit.

Instead of having just one versatile watch, Mirzan Meer tries to cultivate a culture of watch collectors in Malaysia. To do this, he opened a concept store that functions as a watch gallery while also serving as a café on Jalan Telawi, called Vernakular Store (Vernakular).

“The mission is to bring back the art of collecting timepieces that we believe has been lost to both the aggressive marketing of luxury watches and the convenience of smartwatches,” Mirzan told Vulcan Post. .

Time travel

Mirzan grew up knowing watches as his family has been in the business since 1958, which meant they frequented jewelry and watch fairs in Hong Kong, Belgium and Switzerland in his youth.

In 2018, he joined Time Zone, a watch distribution company, and is today a director. Noticing the wide variety of watches he encountered at Time Zone, he eventually founded his own multi-brand watch store, The Watch Library (TWL).

TWL lists various watch brands in alphabetical order, which are then retailed online and through Vernakular, an extension of the brand.

Marathon and Bravur Watches / Image Credit: Vernakular Store

Working directly with the designers of each brand such as Bravur, Ice-Watch, Timex and Greyhours, the products come from Belgium, France, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, Japan and Australia.

According to Mirzan, his upbringing sharpened his instinct for choosing watches for TWL and Vernakular. He is able to identify quality, creativity and modernity in both design and craftsmanship. In addition, he favors independent watch brands built with passion.

Coffee time

Located in Bangsar, Vernakular spans 82 square feet with an interior design concept divided as you enter.

On the left, white is painted from floor to ceiling to mimic a gallery, housing watches from its parent brand, TWL. It also has enough real estate for pop-up stores and has hosted Re {me} dy, a health and skin care refill.

To the right of the store, you’ll find its on-site café, PeepCoffee, which has seating areas for restaurant patrons and take-out customers.

When I visited the store a month ago, it seemed like a perfect hangout for the Millennial and Gen Z Bangsar crowd.

In the year since Vernakular opened in October 2020, the store has only been operational for a total of 7 months due to lockdowns, but it has still been able to gain popularity relatively quickly. This may be due to the team’s use of social media and the store’s prime location in Bangsar.

Turning coffee drinkers into watch collectors

Mirzan shared that the biggest challenges he has faced in running Vernakular have been similar to the financial problems most businesses faced during the pandemic. This includes rent coverage over the 5-6 months they have been closed since launch.

All their efforts were concentrated on selling the watches on their own site, as well as on markets such as Zalora, Lazada and Shopee.

“Purchase feeling [for the watches] has been very inconsistent and without a long term strategy we might not have opened the store at all, ”said Mirzan.

Now that the economy is picking up, I was curious if Vernakular was seeing more customers visiting his cafe or his watches.

Some of the cafe’s pastries / Image Credit: Vernakular Store

“I would say the cafe has more regular traffic, but the watch store generates higher sales value,” said Mirzan, who also added that many customers who visit the cafe have, in turn, become watch customers. “It’s balanced so I can say the mission is on the right track.

Since Mirzan intends for Vernakular to simply act as a physical gallery for watches and drive traffic to TWL, he told Vulcan Post he has no plans to expand his concept store. So if you are ever in Bangsar stop by and see us as this is probably the only Vernakular store you will ever see.

Bangsar was a strategic choice

Bangsar is known for its influence on culture and style which has attracted many creatives to the area. Therefore, this makes it an ideal location for Vernakular to route traffic to its parent company, TWL.

Mirzan also added that more than just a retail space, he hopes to use Vernakular as a community space through programs or workshops with local artists and designers.

In terms of the sustainability of the business, it looks like the cafe is likely to be the anchor that attracts customers to visit the store. Once there, they can then browse the watches sold by the brand, which can range from RM299 to RM17,000.

Therefore, it makes sense that while Vernakular’s sales may be inconsistent, each product with a high value can help support costs for the most part.

That being said, Mirzan’s experience at Time Zone is a plus when it comes to running his own store, as he has more observational data on watch buying trends in Malaysia.

Right now, Time Zone distributes around 50,000 to 60,000 watches per year, so there is a possibility that TWL will hit the same numbers if built and functioning properly. But first, Mirzan’s most immediate plan is to officially launch Vernakular soon.

  • You can read more about Vernakular Store here.
  • You can read more about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: The Vernakular Store Team

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