The might not have had the best-laid plans
when they started Papemelroti in 1967, but after four decades and two
generations of running the business, the husband-and-wife team of Benny
and Corit Alejandro have made the curio gift-shop chain one of the most
popular and successful in the country today.
"It has always been my hobby to make new
things out of what people usually throw away," Corit recalls how she got
started in the business. "I sewed dresses for my daughters and
made toys from toilet paper rolls and piggy banks from empty bottles.
My husband, Benny, also enjoyed woodworking and making furniture."
Benny was then looking for a new home for the family and Corit had asked
him to find one where she could also put up a small store. They
found an apartment that fit their requirements along Tomas Morato in
Quezon City, and they moved to it in 1967.
Patsy, the Alejandro couple's eldest child, recalls: "My mom would make
different crafts and run her shop on the first floor, while the family
lived on the second. We were just kids then, so naturally, we
would help her out every now and then."
The couple initially named the store Korben Gifts, after the first
syllables of their first names, and they opened it for business during
their first summer there. Patsy remembers: "At first, the products
were just enough to fill the window display; the rest of the 30 sq m
store space was empty. But my parents refused to borrow money.
All of their capital thus came solely from their savings and from my
dad's earnings as a broker."
When friends and neighbors soon began frequenting the store, however,
the couple was able to steadily expand the shop's product line.
They even began sourcing some their product lines from Europe and the
US, but as the Philippine economy took a plunge and importing became too
difficult, they concentrated on making their own merchandise: figurines,
furniture, metal pieces, stationery, woodcarvings and other crafts.
Having not yet perfected her molding method, Corit Alejandro would
inadvertently product many pieces of deformed figurines, which
surprisingly ended up becoming a favorite of her customers. This
encouraged the Alejandro children, all in grade school at that time, to
paint figurines and hammer down wooden plaques to give them that
distressed, but lovable "antique" look.
In May 1976, using all the profit they had made from their shop, the
Alejandros opened another shop on the second floor of Ali Mall in Cubao,
Quezon City. This time, they named the shop "Papemelroti", the
acronym formed by the first syllables of the names of their five
children - Patsy, Peggy, Meldy, Robert and Tina.
Papemelroti's biggest attraction was definitely its charming,
distinctively handcrafted items, many of which were made from recycled
materials. "My mother was naturally thrifty, so a lot of our items
were made out of scraps, natural paper, shells, twigs, and so many
others, " says Patsy. "We used recycled brown paper even back
then. Then, we would put sentimental sayings on some of those
The company now has a chain of 14 gift
shops all over Metro Manila and from its income over the years, the
Alejandro couple had been able to send all of their five children to
college. Each studied and got a college degree from the University
of the Philippines: Patsy in interior design, Peggy in architecture,
Meldy in business administration, Robert in fine arts, and Tina in mass
Patsy joined the family business right after graduating. Her
siblings decided to first work with other companies before finding their
way to Papemelroti.
Today, Papemelroti now also sells its products wholesale to several
stores in the province through resellers and business partners, and has
also started exporting them to Hong Kong, Singapore and other foreign
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