Keeping it Cozy

 

Sui Juthakorn, the owner of Cozy – one of the most inspiring decorative items showrooms in Phuket – doesn’t like to talk about business, numbers and bottom lines. Instead, she prefers to discuss how her work brings her fulfillment by creating happiness for others.

How long has Cozy been in Phuket? 

We’ve been here for 12 years.

How did you manage to keep a business prosperous for so many years?

The first and most important thing is that I always have passion for it; I always look forward to seeing new pieces and falling in love with them, being inspired and coming up with new creations. We strive to have our collections constantly updated because we believe that this keeps Cozy Company lively and satisfies our returning customers.

What did you do before you launched this business?

I spent my early years in the service and hospitality industry, such as tourism, restaurants, and airlines. It begins with my family background – we were the first ones to start a travel company in Phuket. Phuket was a very different place then; there were only tin mines and rubber plantations everywhere, and my father was also engaged in the tin mining industry. Every weekend, he would put us in a jeep and drive to the beach, and as there were no roads, we had to trek through the jungle to get there. That’s how we had an explorer’s gene installed in all of us. I remembered how he let us all sit by the beach and watch the rain over the stormy sea, the changing colors of the sky – that’s when I realized for the first time that beauty exists not only on sunny happy days. We gradually learned to appreciate nature’s beauty, without realizing that it would one day become one of the most important skills for our future business. 

When my father passed away, I was only 10 years old. We were all quite lost because the only business we knew was tin mining, and we were all too young to know how to run it. At that time, we had some foreign friends who came to visit us in Phuket, whom we hosted and showed around, and that’s where we got the idea of starting a travel business. We saw how much they appreciated Phuket’s beauty and we realized that if more people came to visit, they’d need someone to show them around, help with transportation and so on. We then bought a small off-road car to serve small groups of visitors. As the demand grew, so did we, and eventually we opened a travel agency. This was roughly 45-50 years ago.

How did you move from working in tourism to running an interior design store?

I was working for an airline at that time, but I decided to quit because I wanted to settle down and start a family. But I also dreamed of running a small shop with decorative items. So, together with my brother in law who was an interior designer, I started my first small gallery in Sukhumvit 23 in Bangkok, where I had a collection of ceramics created with fine quality Japanese soil, featuring a variety of coral and fish designs. Later, I decided to move back to Phuket, to raise my children in the same environment that I grew up in – 22 years ago life was much slower there. Still, it was truly a life-changing decision. 

How long were you away from Phuket?

Long enough! I would say about 30 years, on and off. After my father died, I continued studying in Phuket, while assisting my brothers and sisters with our business. After the tour agency business became stable, we opened a small restaurant called Tunk Ka Café, on top of Rang hill, which is still there today, 45 years on. Later on, I moved to Bangkok to study at a university and to work.

When I came back to Phuket, I was very much into the accessories business, which I started back in Bangkok. It was also a time when gemstones and silver accessories were in fashion, so I continued this business by opening a small shop in Phuket and also putting my collection in other locations, such as my friend’s antique showroom and hotel galleries. 

And then Cozy came along.

Yes. We actually planned to start the construction since 2004, but when the tragic Tsunami happened, we hesitated to proceed, as no one really knew if and when Phuket would recover. So, we waited, and two years later, when things were getting better, we decided to pursue this dream again. 

We envisioned a more modern-tropical style for Cozy, which is lighter than the traditional oriental style popular earlier on. We also discovered that decorative items were in high demanded, as they complement designer furniture well. And we also found out that some customers don’t always have a clear picture of what they want, so we set out to assist them in their decision-making by setting up a more realistic display, akin to a real house. We set up various combinations of furniture and decoration, so customers could relax and take their time imagining how each piece would look at their own place. We also got requests for design selection or setting up customers’ purchases in their own space, so we started offering this service along with any purchased goods. Occasionally, we also get requests for whole villa decoration packages, including all fabrics selection, bedding, etc. We offer that as well.

How much of the way this shop looks, of the kind of pieces that you sell here, comes from your ideas, from your style, from your heart? 

They are all my favorite pieces; the selection is based on what I like. We also work with artists and designers to make sure that our products clearly reflect the character for our showroom’s concept. Having full trust of our clients is important to us because we want to be in this business for many years to come, and we want to make sure that our customers are satisfied and keep coming back. 

We also work with designers and artists to create pieces specifically for our Phuket showroom, because homeowners in Phuket often have different requirements than those in other places. This is what we learned from our 12 years of experience and from our customers’ feedback. 

Above all, we would like everyone to see Cozy showroom as a place which gathers unique pieces from talented local designers, the one spot where they can show off their skills – traditional and oriental blended with western and contemporary. 

What are your bestsellers? 

Well, we had a period of a property boom a few years back, when houses and villas in Phuket were in high demand, and everything sold well – furniture and decorative items were essential to elevating property value for investors. Many residence owners also enjoyed decorating their houses themselves and our collection was quite unique in the local market at that time. However, furniture trends in the past few years have changed, many people tend to look for things with a shorter life span, to be able to change things up when needed. Earlier on, they would buy fine quality furniture which would last 10-15 years, now they enjoy mixing and matching by selecting fine design and quality for the main items, such as sofas and dining sets, and opting for fast trend quality for the minor pieces. But this doesn’t apply to the niche market customers, they still require fine quality and even more unique pieces. Which is why we gradually add more one-of-a-kind pieces to our collection.

Except for customers’ feedback, how do you select the pieces for your showroom? 

The best things are always presented in the showroom first, it is important to us for the early customers to always get the best choice. I also believe that each piece has its owner, it just waits for someone to come along and fall in love with it. Some pieces were with us for years but were sold in five minutes. All we do is get them ready for their real owners.  

Did you ever find a piece that you loved so much that you decided to keep it?

Many, but I mostly keep the ones that come with a story, such as the last piece of a collection that’s no longer produced, or one made specifically for us, with unusual details or materials.

I was also influenced by my birth home, which is a Chino-Portuguese shophouse on Rassada road. At my own house, I mix pieces of colonial and modern-tropical styles – I would actually call it as a storage space as I intend to have a house to place all my favorite pieces in. Besides decorations, I am passionate about gems and stones. I have a collection of necklaces and it’s going to be my next project, my future plan. 

Talking about the future, What is next for Cozy? 

There will be no big change, but we will be improving our showroom and adjusting our products’ line to suit our customers’ lifestyles. Lately, we were approached by some local artist, some of whom are resident expats, who would like to showcase their art pieces in our showroom. We see this as an opportunity to have all these interesting works in one place and to show them to more people, so we will have some space designated for that collection to be displayed.

Most of your customers are tourists? Villa owners? Who? 

It depends on the tourist season and the property market. For the first eight years, we had both walk-in tourists and residence owners, but lately, we tend to see more property owners, many of whom are our returning customers. 

Does the fact that this shop is in Phuket influence it, or would it be the same in Chiang Mai or in Bangkok or elsewhere? 

Having the showroom in Phuket makes it more interesting. We were asked many times whether we had a branch in Bangkok or other places. We also deliver items to some customers in Bangkok, Samui, Krabi, etc. I don’t know what it would be like if we opened a showroom in Bangkok, because I don’t work according to a business plan. I’m spontaneous and I feel comfortable that way. I love it the way it is – small and well taken care of, instead of expanding until it’s beyond my ability to do it well. I work using my instinct and being strictly business-minded is not something I’m comfortable with. Having the showroom in Phuket gives us a chance to meet art lovers and interesting people from around the world. It’s is truly rewarding.

Tell me more about the name – Cozy. 

It’s enough to hear it to feel relaxed. We wanted a name that makes it clear that there are pleasure and happiness waiting for you at our showroom. And they will be carried along to your home, together with the satisfaction of getting the pieces you love. This is what we do, and this is why we do it. 

Cozy showroom is located in 1/1 Lagoon Rd. Cherngtalay, Thalang. For more information call 076270847 or send an email to cozy_company@yahoo.com

Maciek Klimowicz
Maciek Klimowicz

Maciek Klimowicz is the former Editor in Chief at Real Life Phuket. Food, wine, culture and travel are some of the things he enjoys and writes about. Contact Maciek on klimowicz.maciej@gmail.com

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