The story begins over a century ago when a young man from a family of wine brewers in Xiamen, China departed on his first voyage by steamship for a new life in Burma, and came to be known as Tan Teong Sin (a fresh beginning).
Tan travelled around Southeast Asia trading Burmese rice for his uncle-in-law and opened his first wine distillery Leong Bee (beautiful wine) in provincial Alor Setar, before relocating to Penang in 1916, with a booming economy driven by its free port.
Initially based in a rented three-storey shophouse along the prestigious Beach Street in the heart of the financial district near to Tan Kongsi (Tan Clan Association), the liquour merchant later purchased four new shophouses along Bridge Street, now known as Jalan CY Choy, which led to a new business Soo Bee (beautiful wood) selling wood and attap.
In 1931, the companies merged to become Leong Bee & Soo Bee (LBSB) and Tan established Penang’s first saw mill on the crossroads of Jalan CY Choy and Macallum Street with seven shophouses and the LBSB Godowns in the Seven Streets Precinct, where The Saw Emporium is currently situated. Then directly situated behind the sea, Tan reclaimed land to dock several tongkangs (junks) built to directly receive logs from Burma and Teluk Anson, and ship the sawn planks back to the timber companies.
From brewing wine, to timber trading then sawmilling, the enterprising LBSB has now evolved to supplying cutting tools for the woodworking, metalworking and plastics industries, a business which continues today at The Saw Emporium and throughout Malaysia.
Lifestyle collective, The Steamship Merchants (TSM), was named to honour our forefathers who endured harsh journeys on steamships to Southeast Asia to seek a better life for their families. TSM will be taking over The Saw Emporium through Swallow, a multi-concept food event that will transform the former sawmill premises into a dining and lifestyle destination with top restauranteurs and bars from around the region until Q1 2018.