KUANTAN: A senior citizen, who earns a living by repairing furniture in Bukit Setongkol here, is also using his expertise to make cushion covers that can make old furniture look better and in some cases, luxurious.
James Ng Eng Cheng, 61, has been operating his business from a dilapidated wooden shed for the past 14 years after travelling to several countries to gain experience and enhance his skills in furniture making and repair.
"I first learnt to fix such furniture in Singapore. It was not my intention to join this line but there were no other options as I could not secure other jobs when I went to the neighbouring country with my friends in the early 1970s," said Ng, adding that it was difficult to get a job here at the time.
After working in Singapore for eight years, Ng and his friends moved to Sabah when they were offered work as contract workers at a furniture factory.
"It was normal to work on a contractual basis at that time due to the scarcity of jobs. After a few years in Sabah, we managed to secure better jobs in Brunei."
Ng said his life in Sabah was so difficult that he sometimes had to ask for money from his mother.
"She (Ng's mother) tried to convince me to return home but I decided to go to Brunei instead as I believed that I could earn more there," said Ng, who finally returned here in 1995.
At first, he operated his business at his home in Alor Akar and helped repair old furniture and sofas sent by relatives and friends.
When his business started to grow, Ng rented the wooden shed in Bukit Setongkol in 1998 and employed several workers.
At present, he has four workers and they can refurbish a sofa set within 10 days, complete with a new set of matching cushions which customers can choose from more than 30 types of fabric available at his workshop.
"We can also pick up the furniture at the customer's house and send it back free of charge," said the father of a 11-year-old daughter, who earns about RM3,000 monthly.
One of his workers G. Navin Raj, 20, of Kampung Tengah said he admired Ng's skills and craftmanship.
"I want to emulate his success and hopefully I can open my own business in the next few years after learing more about the business from him," said Navin, who has been working for Ng since 2006.