MacPherson Mama Shop

Standalone kiosks operating at the void decks of old Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks, fondly known as mama shops, were common sights in the eighties and nineties. At their peak, they numbered more than 500 in different parts of the island.

However, by the late nineties, the rise of neighbourhood minimarts and convenience stores had edged out these mama shops, and their numbers dwindled to only 300-plus currently.

A typical mama shop, like the old mama shop located at the corner of a shophouse at MacPherson, sells mainly basic necessities, such as eggs, instant noodles, canned food and bottled drinks. Cigarettes, batteries, magazines and newspapers are also popular items on sale.

“Mama” in Tamil means uncle, which probably explains the reason why these provision shops are called mama shops. Usually they are manned by the Indian Muslims.

Other than located at the void decks of old flats, many mama shops are set up in old shophouses, where they have more freedom to sell their items on the five foot way. Large variety of goods are laid out neatly on shelves and walls, while magazines are hanged on display, ensuring no spaces are wasted.

With the current crop of mama shop owners unwilling to pass their businesses to their next generations, as well as facing tough competitions from supermarts, minimarts and convenience stores who are able to keep their prices low from ordering big bulks of goods, the future of local mama shops is bleak.

The picture below shows a typical mama shop at the void deck of a flat in an old estate.

Probably in another decade or so, we will see the last of these familiar kiosks in Singapore.

Published: 01 September 2011

Updated: 09 November 2011

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22 Responses to MacPherson Mama Shop

  1. Agustus Julius Caesar says:

    EH… That Mama shop for that last Picture was taken at Blk 35 Marsiling Drive isn’t it?

  2. Roy says:

    Hi, May I know the Mama Shop is it located at Siang Kung Avenue?

  3. Hey, do come and do an article at Potong Pasir one day! Got a lot of old school stuffs here to document! It is the one estate that seem to be “frozen” in the 90’s while the rest of Singapore gets modernised! =)

  4. Wilson says:

    Great site!! Memories of my childhood are flooding back now. I’m from Chong Li Primary too! Which year did you graduate?

  5. Alex Chia says:

    My family used to live at 16 Siang Kuang Avenue in the 50’s. Remember going to buy lollies from that same mama shop.

  6. howard says:

    in the late 70’s, i remembered buying some forbidden( i thought) american magazines like ‘sexologist’ from mama shop selling books and magazines along loke yew street. this is the building with a coffee shop at the bend. not far from the national library at stamford road.

  7. George says:

    I grew up at 15 Siang Kuang Ave. Remember the days of reading chinese comics and buying sweets from the mama stores very fondly . Since the arrival of 7-11 convenience stores , their biz have been in decline . Thanks for the memories

  8. Julie says:

    Siang Kuang Avenue was not the only street in Sennett Estate that had a mama shop. At its height, there were probably 7 namely : MacPherson Rd/Tai Thong Cresct, Siang Kuang Ave, Puay Hee/Siang Kuang Ave, (all 3 still there), Upper Serangoon/Tai Thong Cresct, Pheng Geck/Tai Thong Cresct, Wan Tho/ Upper Serangoon and at Mulberry/Jalan Wangi. This last location being notable for the bomb that was set off there during the Indonesian confrontation, killing the operator. Must say I don’t know any other estate that supported so many. It was quite strange that they survived when there were, at the same time, many grocery and sundry shops in the estate as well. All estate kids must remember them as the place to go to on our bikes for comics, batteries, sweets and the purchase of presents for Mother’s or Father’s Day – 4711 Eau de Cologne / Shaving cream. These were the days before the over-commercialisation of these occasions, the ubiquitous shopping mall and when allowances were smaller. Located where they were, one of them would definitely be passed on your walk into the estate if you took a bus home.

  9. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    There was a great one in Lorong Telok of Circular Road until a few years age

  10. Ben says:

    Hi,

    Thank you very much for this wonderful site! It really brings back lots of good memories of the Singapore that I used to love. I wonder if you are able to put up old pictures of Farrer Park and the Race Course Road/Owen Road/Rangoon Road/Cambridge Road area of the 60s and 70s. I grew up there but we were too poor to have photos then. Would really love to see some!

    Thank you very much.

  11. LO says:

    Wow! Siang Kuang’s mama shop was my comics book wonderland. Spent so much of my allowance there.
    Thanks, Julie for the reminder of all the other nearby ones, too! If I had missed an issue of my favorite comics at Siang Kuang, I couldn’t go to Jalan Wangi to check for it as my parents banned me from that area.

  12. Jonno says:

    Wow! That Mama shop in Siang Kuang Avenue have been around for nearly 50 years. The whole area, Sennett Estate or better known as Sar Ko Chiok in its heydays used to be a relatively prosperous middle class area – virtually all landed houses. 4 decades ago, there used to be a famous hawker street on the roundabout near Jackson Market. Cheok Kee Teochew braised duck, Meng Kee Satay Beehoon (felt very sad for the 2 brothers), Lau Sim Chicken Mushroom noodles, the Cheng Tng stall, Fried Oyster Egg stall at East Coast Parkway – those were the standouts stalls at the Ngee Kaw Tway (Roundabout). That clutch of hawker stalls there were by far the best in Singapore even better than the hawkers stalls at Orchard Road car-park, Collyer Quay car-park & even the Wayang Street hawker stalls. I’d remember my family would eat there every week until the place was demolished for road widening. Saddest day for Sennett Estate residents. That place has since been in a time warp for a very long time – some terrace houses there pushing 50 years & over!

  13. DLT says:

    In aljunied cresent stands a mama shop that has been upgraded to have Aircon. Wow. Still quite a few mama shops in the area though

  14. A typical mama shop at void deck


    (Photo credit: http://mynicehome.sg/)

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