Peter Quek of Da Da Records... before the present facelift to Funan Centre
and before moving down to the ground floor.

By Stephen Tan
Pictures by Cyril Ng


One would imagine that after 40 years, Peter Quek of Da Da Records would have a good collection of music rarities. Not so, says Peter. There is not much, and most of them are now kept by his older son. Long ago, Peter had decided not to be a music collector. He says: "If I started keeping things, then there isn't much I can sell." As a business, he felt the goods should go to the customer.


 

Over the past month, regulars to Da Da Records, located on the ground floor at Funan The IT-Mall, would do a double take with the new layout of the store and especially the new name, Laser Flair. In March, after operating Da Da for 19 years, Peter decided to give up the retail business. (For those who remember, he was helping his father for 21 years at the Oriental store before branching out on his own.)

But he didn't drop out of sight. Instead, he stayed on for another one-and-a-half months to help the new owner with the store's teething problems. One also suspects that Peter stayed on to inform his regular customers about the change, many of whom actually thought he was joking when he brought up the subject.

Why leave the business now? Peter never pinpointed any one particular reason, only to say that it was "time" to leave. But who would have guessed that with him selling off his business just before the SARS outbreak, timing seems to be everything. While Peter knows that he is not getting any younger, the current economic recession and the tough retail market must also be considerations for pulling out.

Anyone who has followed Da Da probably realised that Peter does have a good sense of "timing." He built up a niche for himself in the '80s (and probably way before that) taking orders for vinyls, especially by indie acts. What helped were the weekly shipments and you could get the latest releases while they were still being raved about. But what really clinched the deal with customers was that imported albums were going for an affordable $20 (as compared to about $40 fans now pay at HMV or Roxy Records. The latter has really fill the void when Da Da stopped bringing in vinyls).


 

And even when CDs came, Peter never forgot the vinyl crowd. But he probably felt there would be a lot more players in the CD market so he switched to selling video CDs just before the craze started. Later, he was also one of the first to expand into selling DVDs.

"After I agreed to the sale, I couldn't sleep for a week," he laughs. It wasn't that he felt he made the wrong decision. It was more the thought of a new and different lifestyle. For now, he gets to watch a bit more TV — especially music programmes or rock concerts ("you miss a lot when you're working at the shop") but he still keeps to his hours. "In those vinyl days, there was the paperwork and the only time you could do any business with the US was around midnight," he says. So being up around midnight is not unusual. He still rises around six but instead of heading towards the shop, he now goes for a morning walk at the beach with his wife, who has been his steady right hand.

And getting used to "new" gadgets like handphones. "Why do I need a handphone for when I'm in the shop most of the time?" And now, he says, "half the time I keep forgetting and leave it in the car."

For now, Peter and his wife will be visiting their son who is studying in Australia. Their younger son is still doing national service. "We've not had a real holiday. Even to Hong Kong, it's like after two days, we're back." And after that, a trip to Thailand. But lest you think that "Da Da Records" will be a thing of the past, Peter says that he's only sold the shop space and the stocks. He's still holding on to the name and, who knows, Da Da Records may still live on.





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