Pramort and Jeab always dreamed of opening a small crafts shop. After marrying in 1989 they traveled throughout north and northeast Thailand meeting local craftspeople, sourcing handwoven cotton and studying the intricacies of dyeing and weaving. They saw untapped opportunity in selling the wide and long fabric rolls specifically suited to home furnishings.
PAYA opened in June 1990 and has grown organically ever since. When fabric customers asked to buy the wooden display cabinets, Pramort sourced and refurbished 2nd-hand pieces. As demand for custom-made items increased, he and Jeab decided to produce in-house. They bought an old factory specializing in solid-wood furniture and introduced computer-aided design to ensure top-quality products. In 2000 Pramort and Jeab designed and built their current spacious showroom on Thonglor 10.
PAYA embodies Jeab’s belief that “it’s Thai style to make people happy.” Many of the original artisans and vendors still supply to the shop. Of the 20-member staff—including the original seamstresses and shop assistants—most have been with PAYA since they started working. Drawn to the homey ambiance, new and old clients love stopping by for coffee and a chat. Whether it’s covering a single cushion, choosing a roomful of furnishings or custom-designed furniture, every customer receives the same friendly personalized attention.
As the only son in a Chinese family, Pramort was expected to work in his father’s garage company. Instead, he studied business administration at the University of Texas at Austin where he graduated in 1985. Of the many books he read, ‘Small is Beautiful’ inspired and influenced him most. This world-famous collection of essays by British economist E.F. Schumacher champions sustainable development and appropriate technologies.
Back in Thailand, Pramort joined Citibank in 1987 where he met Preeyaporn “Jeab” Balabhat. Despite their different backgrounds, they shared a passion for artisanal village handcrafts and a desire to make their living from them. They married in 1989 and embarked on the romantic and creative partnership that evolved into PAYA.
Her grandparents lived on a large fruit farm in Sathupradit, a still-rural suburb renown for its delicious fruits. After school, Jeab would help her many relatives prepare food and create elaborate fruit/floral offerings for the endless religious ceremonies. She especially liked weaving the traditional ‘chalom’ baskets used for protecting and/or carrying fruit. Living in an oasis of traditional Thai culture in the middle of a rapidly urbanizing capital sparked Jeab’s interest in design, colors and artisanal handcrafts.
She nurtured her creativity by drawing as well as reading books on art and photography. After graduating from Assumption University in 1984 with a degree in business administration, she joined Citibank in 1985. There she learned the financial and accounting aspects of business. When Pramort started working there in 1987, she recognized a kindred spirit with strangely similar life experiences and long term goals. They married in 1989…and the rest is PAYA history.