Jaro Memories

Jaro baskets are practical and beautifully
made to last a long time
Long-lasting creations Jaro can be proud of

Three things took place recently to set me off on a quest for my Jaro mementoes: A visit to the all-new Jaro showroom, my wrestling match with our furniture cushions and reading about batu seremban or five stones, in an in-flight magazine.  These events may seem unrelated but please bear with me to see how it all links up.

It all started when I had a sneak peek of the revamped display of new products in the Jaro showroom at Jalan Sungai Chat.  I’m familiar with Jaro because I used to frequent Jaro with my mum and aunties and I remember meeting their friends, Auntie Milly and later, Auntie Winnie who were once the managers there.  After being introduced to their range of beautifully handmade products, I became a fan of these useful items and often shopped there for myself or bought souvenirs to present to visitors.

Jaro label on cushion cover which was bought
more than 20 years ago

JARO or Johor Area Rehabilitation Organization has a proud heritage in Johor Baru and is an established brand for quality products that are handmade by people with disabilities.  Since 1952 the disabled have been given opportunities to be gainfully employed in the sheltered workshops for bookbinding, basketry, tailoring, and handicrafts.  Every Jaro product is special because its quality and workmanship is matched by the effort and determination put into its creation.  

For as long as I can remember our sitting room furniture was always made of cane or rattan probably because woven rattan is simply attractive and so cooling to sit on in our tropical climate.  Since my parents were transferred back for work in Johor Baru, all our sitting room furniture was bought from Jaro and the latest set remains in good use today.  

When the cushion covers on our furniture are changed, it’s my job to put on a fresh set of covers.  It takes a bit of skill to maneuver the large squares of cushions snugly into the fitted covers and while this procedure entails some serious wrestling with the cushions, this time I paid special attention to the fabric because this set of covers has lasted more than twenty years.  And when I flipped over one of the covers, I was impressed to see that it proudly bore a label with the distinctive Jaro logo.

Mum sitting on furniture made by Jaro to open
her birthday presents
The very sight of this drove me on in my quest and I quizzed mum to find any other Jaro products in our home besides the furniture and her pretty pot-holders. 

Just as mum has her timing to change cushion covers, she also has a regular routine to clear our storeroom so she knows what we have accumulated over the years.  She’s a fountain of information that I can count on because she told me the exact location in the storeroom to find the Jaro rattan basket that I used as a vanity case.

It was hot and hard work to reach this little woven basket on the rear top shelf but halfway into the storeroom, I discovered another made-in-Jaro rattan shopping basket.  I recognized it instantly because it was used for many picnics and also to safely carry a hot-water flask and the usual paraphernalia for making baby feeds on outings.  This basket has certainly served us well and even though the rattan has mellowed to a darker shade, its base and sides remain firm and strong.

That's me holding soft toy made by Jaro
Soft toys were one of Jaro’s most popular products and they used to make a wide range of cute and cuddly stuffed toys.  I remember buying a stuffed long snake made with fabric in a patch-work design to drape over the back seat of my car.  Propped up to display its mouth, wide open with fierce fangs, this snake certainly attracted a lot of attention and never ceased to surprise friends and colleagues who took a ride in my car.

As I searched through my collection of photos, I came across a picture of me holding a soft toy made by Jaro but I just cannot recall where that shot was taken nor have any idea of what happened to that doll.  Even if it seems rather foolish now, I can only remember that time when I carried this doll everywhere because it was a gift from someone special. 

Just as I thought I had exhausted all avenues in my nostalgic quest, I spotted the woven rattan chest, neatly aligned at the foot of my bed.  Buried under a pile of knick-knacks, I’m so familiar with it that I did not realize that this 4ft by 2ft Jaro-made piece is indeed a treasure chest filled with many precious mementoes. 

That's me again, sitting on Jaro furniture with my
niece Amanda
Even as my Jaro products remain beautiful and useful today, I’m excited about the new Jaro and its range of updated and eco-friendly products.  In keeping with the Jaro tradition, their new range of products are also made with materials like rattan, paper and cotton for a new generation of customers who are looking for green living solutions. 

Jaro is now poised to become a popular destination for everyone who appreciates quality handmade products and I’m sure contemporary green consumers will be thrilled by products that are made with materials from recycled or sustainable sources.  

And yes, they still make fun items like sets of batu seremban but I already have a set of my own which I bought from Jaro a long time ago. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 21 June 2011


  1. Anonymous9/19/2014

    Another memory deeply buried but now coming back...yes, I can sort of even remember where Jaro was, and the rattan stuff.

    I also remember Central Store - by smell! The excitement of having a new book in the car on the way back home from Central Store - sniffing it deeply. Wonder of it's still there? The owner was an Indian Muslim, I think...so long ago...sigh.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories! Jaro is still there on the hillock along Jalan Sungai Chat. And Yes, Johor Central Store still exists but have relocated into modern malls! Yes, the owner, an Indian Muslim man, is also instrumental in raising funds for the upgrading of the mosque at Jalan Duke.