The Disappearing Chee Pow Kai and Hum Chim Peng

It takes years of effort and determination to build a reputable brand. But sometimes, luck plays an important part too. There are many decades-old local famous and popular names that, for certain reasons, find it difficult to carry on their trades in this modern era.

The Union Farm Eating House, located off Clementi Road beside Maju Camp, goes all the way back to 1953 when Clementi was still very much a rural place. It was started by Chia Sek Hong who had his own poultry farm. He later created the eating house’s signature dish of chee pow kai (paper wrapped chicken), made popular for more than five decades!

Come mid-February, the 59-year-old kampong-styled eating house will walk into history. The reason is due to the expansion of the nearby campus of Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), where the land has been unknowingly used by Union Farm as a kitchen for decades.

Fans of this makan place love the rustic and undisturbed surrounding, with a nostalgic kampong touch that reminds them of the past. Others would criticise the steep prices and the oiliness of the chee pow kai. Whatever the reasons, the eating house is definitely considered successful after operating for so many decades. I’m sure many will miss this unique place when it eventually closes down.

And who can forget the famous hardworking old uncle at Maxwell Market’s Hum Jin Pang stall? For 6 or 7 pieces of deep fried doughs, a packet of these sweet or salty snacks, some stuffed with bean paste, cost only $1 each. Despite the inflation, their prices remained stagnant for many years. And the fun part is that customers can choose to fry their hum jin pang (or hum chim peng) themselves, using long chopsticks to stir the doughs in the large wok filled with boiling oil.

Maxwell Market started in the 1950s as a wet market but became a hawker center in the eighties to house the hawkers from China Street. The old uncle was likely to have started his business there (according to his signboard).

Today, the hum chim peng uncle is no longer around, but luckily his legacy is passed on to his daughter. The images of the hardworking uncle doing his work quietly will likely be remembered by many of his regular customers.

But in a world of rising cost and rents, it makes one wonder how long will such businesses with low profit margins survive?

Some other trades are not so lucky. Unable to find suitable successors, or due to declining revenues, some old brands and shops in Singapore have already walked into the history books.

Traditional Teochew confectionery store Thye Moh Chan at Geylang Lorong 27 decided to call it a day in September 2011 after operating for 68 years. Established in 1943 initially at Liang Seah Street, the shop had been run by three generations. And even so, the last owner, grandson of the shop’s founder, found it difficult to keep it going. He and his team of workers were already in their sixties and seventies, and the issues of manpower and successor had been bothering the boss in recent years.

The famous Sunset Grill & Pub located at a rustic and quiet corner of Seletar Airbase East Camp was something different from a typical makan place in Singapore.

Although the direction to this well-hidden place was challenging, the simple restaurant of Western food still attracted many patrons, especially on a cool evening during the weekends.

The ulu Seletar Airbase and Camp have remained largely unchanged for some 70-plus years since it was completed in 1928. However, its quiet and peaceful environment finally came to an end in 2010 when it was designated to be redeveloped as Singapore’s new Aerospace Hub. More than half of its iconic black and white colonial houses had been identified to be demolished. Sunset Grill & Pub, needless to say, was also affected. It was closed down in late 2011.

In late 2011, old fashioned bookshop Clementi Bookstore has decided to close down after 30-plus years of existence at Clementi central. In fact, the whole area bounded by Clementi Avenue 3 has been drawn for redevelopment. The shops, as well as the iconic sparrow sand-based playground, have been emptied since October last year.

With wide selection of textbooks, reference materials and stationary, the bookshop was extremely popular among many generations of students studying nearby. But even for that they could not compete against the online book stores and the availability of reading materials on the internet.

Even the much larger Page One, specialised in art and design books and established in 1983, could not maintain its stronghold at home. The 29-year-old homegrown brand has decided to give up its flagship store at Vivocity in early 2012 due to soaring rents, and shift the focus to its other retail shops in China, Hong Kong and Thailand.

From cassette tapes to CDs, music lovers will not be too unfamiliar with Sembawang Music Centre. Operating for more than 20 years, it had been one of the leaders in the local retail music industry. Many students would save up their allowances to buy his or her favourite music albums from the store in the eighties and nineties.

Started from a humble shop at Sembawang Shopping Centre (hence its name) to several prime outlets at Raffles City, Thomson Plaza and Plaza Singapura, Sembawang Music Center could not avoid the popularity of digital music, resulting in their bankruptcy and eventual closure in 2009. During its heydays, it had some 26 outlets in Singapore.

The demand for space is also a headache for many businesses in land-scarce Singapore. Orchidville, Singapore’s largest orchid farm, faces the dilemma when the land it currently occupies is needed by Land Transport Authority (LTA) to build a depot for the upcoming Thomson Line.

Originally specialised in pig farming at Punggol, Orchidville’s towkay switched to orchid farming when they were relocated to Mandai in 1993. Now, after almost 20 years, they face the same problem again. If there are no suitable alternatives in finding the new site, Orchidville may have to close down or shift to the neighbouring countries.

The cluster of fish farms at Seletar West Farmway also faces the same problem of relocation. With the land needed for redevelopment in near future, the fish farms have little choices but to find their way out. Some, though, may have to shut down for good. Many of the farms have been doing their businesses at Seletar West Farmway for decades.

Wholesale and retail flower-selling Sinflora, which has established its trade along Jalan Kayu as early as 1979, will also be shifting to Tampines in March 2012.

At Hougang lark kok jio (six milestone), there is this old kopitiam called Nam Heng Restaurant, famous for its orh luak (fried oyster omelette) and Hokkien mee. The area now known as Kovan has seen tremendous changes especially in the past decade. Simon Road Camp was demolished in 2003, whereas the popular Simon Road Market (1948-1999) has been replaced by Kovan Residences. Even the iconic 50-plus-year-old kopitiam, situated at the junction between Simon Road and Upper Serangoon Road, could not escape the fate of urbanisation and was torn down recently.

Good things come and go. Guess that’s the way of life.

Published: 31 January 2012

Updated: 01 October 2012

This entry was posted in Nostalgic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to The Disappearing Chee Pow Kai and Hum Chim Peng

  1. SK says:

    I’ll miss Thye Moh Chan…
    Always there to get the Teochew moon cakes every year.
    Went there one last time last year to savor the original flavor and durian flavor… Wonder where to go next to get it this year? Back to Mui Lee at Chin Swee Road perhaps???

    Any ideas where the orh luau and hokkien mee at Nam Heng move to?
    That area certainly going through a revolution!

    Hum Jin Pang is still great today!
    Hawkers whip up dishes/food that are different from run-of-the-mill food courts.
    And that’s also the reason why more are canvassing to keep the hawker centers going.

  2. Dan says:

    I was not aware that the Simon Rd orh luak coffeeshop has closed. Any idea where the stall might have moved to?? Seems like good iconic S’pore food will be going the way of the dodo.

  3. The delicious and oily orh luak stall is shifted to where the Punggol Nasi Lemak is located (just a short distance away from Simon Road kopitiam)…
    but not too sure about the Hokkien mee stall, maybe the owner decides to retire for good

  4. The Pariah says:

    Yep, Singapore has sold her soul long ago.

    Tongue-in-cheek – Why don’t we en bloc The Istana to The Iskandar? Why only pack our old folks to JB nursing homes?

    Land is cheap there. Unlock the economic value of prime Orchard Road and vicinity (ever notice that only Meritus Mandarin Hotel is the only high-rise and everything else is less than 25 storeys – for somebody’s flight path apparently). No more traffic jams when all traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) is halted because some VVIP need to go in/out of The Istana.

  5. abao says:

    hmm.. maybe u can try thye lee for your teowchew biscuits

  6. Tim says:

    I think facing land scarcity and an increasing population, space may inevitable be needed to be more maximised to ‘save’ the space. I think kampungs are still possible to be found still in the late 80s but now is just not possible. When things are torn or thrown away, it will never be the same again.

  7. bunny tang says:

    If anyone knows where the nam heng hokkien need stall shifted place let me know!! I ate it since I was a kid n I miss it!!

  8. bunny tang says:

    Hey all, I just found out the hokkien mee stall is still there. They just renovated the coffee shop n it’s open!!!

  9. I rem the hum chim peng sold by the uncle is even chepaer before the renovations of the Maxwell Food Centre.. think only one piece 5 cents or 10 cents? I remembered visiting it when I was much much younger… the stall is kinda open-concept and he has this big big wok, where customers can fry the dough themselves… The uncle was tall and quiet and hardworking…

  10. scouty says:

    I missed the food at the kopitiam at Kovan – along Simon Road. The food there were nice. Had tried the Hokkien Mee, Orh Luak, the Wu Xiang Xia Bin….
    Ironcially they tore down the old kopitiam (last few buildings with such old school look) to build a new kopitiam, without the nice food.

  11. Nam Heng kopitiam (Simon Road) in the nineties…

    (Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore)

  12. aa says:

    the “hum chim peng” at Maxwell market was 10cents each, not $1.

  13. Sean Tay says:

    Simon Road Camp wasn’t torn down in late 1990s. I was a NSF from 2000 to 2002 serving 1st Transport Battalion Alpha Coy. Our HQ & Bravo coy was at Simon Road Camp then. The whole unit was shifted to present day Sembawang Camp in mid 2002. I still remember we used Simon Camp as the central dumping ground when we were clearing out our quarters at Ayer Rajah Camp in early 2002. If I remember correctly Simon Camp was demolished in only 2003.

    • Thanks! There isn’t much info about Simon Road Camp.
      With the exception of some old fences and gates, there is not much left at the site that reminds us of the existence of a former army camp

  14. Likewise in Hong Kong, Lung Moon Restaurant, the 60-year-old Wanchai landmark and nostalgic time capsule, was finally shut down in 2009 after its building was sold for redevelopment.

    The dim sum restaurant, which had stood at Johnston Road since 1949, was a place of memories for three generations of Hong Kongers and represented a piece of dining history of the former British crown colony.

  15. Phew… looks like the good old Chin Mee Chin Confectionery will be soldiering on for many more years!

    The staff and owners of Chin Mee Chin Confectionary today refuted rumours circulating online that the decades-old coffeeshop was due to close down. An employee of more than 15 years, who wanted only to be known as Ah Eng, said: “I don’t know where the rumours came from. We don’t use the Internet and we haven’t heard about it until people told us.”

    The staff expressed frustration at the number of people who had asked them about the matter in the past few days. Almost all employees in the kitchen declined to be interviewed.

    When TODAY visited the East Coast Road at 1.30pm, it was business as usual, the shop packed and certain pastries already sold out well before the coffeeshop’s 4pm closing time.

    Established in the 1960s, the old-school confectionary is a landmark in eastern Singapore draws patrons from across the island. “Their kaya is great,” said a patron who wanted only to be known as Terry, who lives in Thomson and was at Chin Mee Chin with his mother. “I come here once a month just for the kaya.”

  16. (Photo Credit: The Straits Times)

    Famous Lim Seng Lee Duck Rice in Buona Vista to close in three months

    After 45 years in the business, Lim Seng Lee Duck Rice Eating House, famous for its boneless braised duck, will be closing shop. The coffeeshop at South Buona Vista Road is likely to close after June 20.

    Founder Mr Lim Ah Too, 67, and his wife were reluctant to speak to Life!, saying they feared a deluge of customers if news got out that they would be closing. But he eventually said he wanted to retire because he has a bad back.

    Wonder will that row of old shophouses along South Buona Vista Road be demolished eventually to make way for private development?

  17. Another old bookstore is struggling due to high rentals….

    EMF moves out of Holland Village
    Select Books is also leaving its downtown spot as bookshops battle rising rentals and other disruptions

    The Straits Times
    Published on Feb 20, 2014

    Two long-established book nooks are taking a break from next month. After 27 years selling and renting out books at Holland Road Shopping Centre, EMF Bookstore is downing shutters there next Thursday, citing increased rentals.

    The nearly 40-year-old Select Books is moving out on March 2 from Armenian Street, where it has been since 2011, as construction on a new building for the Singapore Management University is expected to disrupt business.

    Both bookstores are selling their stock at discounted prices. Customers at EMF Bookstore can buy new and used books at up to 50 per cent off, while Select Books is offering its titles at up to 70 per cent off.

    Mr Tan Dan Feng, 44, one of the three owners who took over Select Books a decade ago, says he and his partners are seeking new space to re-open by the end of this year. Their related business of publishing and distributing South-east Asian scholarly and literary titles is unaffected.

    Last month, the university broke ground for its new School of Law building behind the Select Books store. Construction is expected to be completed in 2017.

    EMF Bookstore’s sole proprietor, Mr Eddie Zhang, 63, also says his business is not closing down. “We are moving out because of high operating costs but we will focus our expansion on roadshows and the Internet,” he says, declining to reveal the revised rentals that have forced this move.

    An online property listing is asking for $8,000 monthly rent for a 474 sq ft space on the floor above EMF. The bookstore occupies one of 14 units on the second floor with individually held strata titles, and the current owner could not be reached for comment by press time.

    Staff such as bookstore manager Mary Ong, who has been with it since 1989, will still be selling books at islandwide roadshows. The remaining EMF Bookstore outlet at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital will accept returns of most books rented from the Holland Road store.

    “If we can manage a better location with easier rental and more locals willing to take up retail jobs, because manpower is also an issue, we are definitely willing to come back,” says Mr Zhang, who also runs cleaning and sanitation company De Hygienique with his wife and son.

    Their 500 sq ft EMF Bookstore outlet in Holland Road Shopping Centre opened in 1987. At its height in the 1990s, the business had seven outlets around the island, offering popular romances and thrillers to thrifty readers who could rent the books and recoup most of what they spent if the titles were returned within about a month. A $16 fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett can be returned for $13, for example.

    Regular visitors such as playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu, 52, are mourning the loss of a cherished haunt. She lives in the West and has visited the store for most of its 27 years since she was a student at the National University of Singapore. EMF Bookstore staff introduced her to some of her favourite authors including mystery writer Kerry Greenwood and fantasy novelist Kylie Chan.

    “It’s awful. The staff know enough of me to know what I want to read. They seem to like their books and know their books,” says Yu.

    Poet Alvin Pang, 41, is more affected by the temporary closure of Select Books. He appreciates the store’s selection of scholarly and literary titles pertinent to South-east Asia, plus its regular talks, book clubs and discussions, which host thinkers such as iconic Indian architect Charles Correa.

    “They’ve always had a special role to play in our literary and cultural life, with their unique range of South-east Asian books, especially non-fiction, and their hosting of talks,” he says.

    “I hope they come back,” adds Mr Kenny Leck, 35, co-owner of indie bookstore Books Actually. He relies on Select Books’ distribution services, but also appreciates its part in fostering a literary culture and more book lovers in Singapore.

    He is unsurprised by news of EMF Bookstore’s move out of Holland Village, saying that rising rental is a “killer” for his store as well. In the past, he has made appeals on social media platforms such as Facebook and held storewide sales to raise money to meet the rent. Rentals at his Yong Siak Street location in Tiong Bahru have more than doubled, from $2.70 per sq ft (psf) in mid-2011 to $6.20 psf last year.

    He is now paying around $8,000 monthly in rent and is trying to put aside enough money to buy retail space outright. “If I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life, I need the space,” he says.

    High rentals have been pushing out bookstores around Singapore for the past three years. Casualties include PageOne, which was at Vivocity until early 2012; MPH Bookstores’ outlet at Velocity Mall the same year; plus Popular Bookstore’s fiction-centred Harris Bookstores in 2011 and 2012; and bookstore-cum-cafe Epilogue at Ion Orchard last August.

  18. Sunny Bookstore latest victim of rising rentals…..

    Sunny Bookshop to close down
    Rising overheads and changes in reading habits are leading to the closure of the bookshop

    Aug 4, 2014

    Sunny Bookshop, which has become an institution among local book lovers since it started in 1985, will cease operations on Aug 20. Current owner Melissa Low, 52, says she feels “very sad” but has no choice. The reasons include rising overheads, changes in reading habits and not being able to find any successors.

    She bought the business from owner Sunny Thum in 2001. At that point, she already had four to five outlets of San Bookshop under her belt. She had kept the name as Sunny Bookshop was “very popular” then and had an established customer base. She tells Life! the two brands have been marketed differently. For Sunny, it was about “personal touch and personal service”, while San was more about convenience of location.

  19. Passed by Tan Quee Lan Street today, but the good old retro stationery shop is no longer around. The one-way street is filled with spas, restaurants and boutique hotels now.

    Anyone knows if that stationery shop has closed down for good? Or moved to elsewhere?

  20. HMV to close last remaining Singapore outlet in Marina Square; plans future new store

    The Straits Times
    23 September 2015

    The last HMV outlet here, in Marina Square, will close by the end of the month. A notice on its website announced the closure and a “plan to re-open a new store in the near future”. It also urged customers to redeem their gift vouchers.

    Contacted yesterday, HMV Singapore’s general manager Michele Tan confirmed the Sept 30 closure, but said she was not authorised to divulge the new store’s location and opening date.

    Hong Kong-based private equity firm AID Partners, which bought HMV Singapore in 2013, told The Straits Times yesterday it is still looking for the right location and will announce it once a decision is made. A new concept lifestyle store will open later this year in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, said a spokesman.

    The Straits Times understands that HMV Singapore did not renew its lease in Marina Square at the end of its four-year term. Its outlet on the second floor of the mall opened in 2011. A spokesman for Marina Centre Holdings said that its tenant had been in discussions with it for a few months and that moving-out terms were confirmed recently.

    The music retailer’s first store here, at The Heeren, was 25,000 sq ft when it opened in 1997, making it Singapore’s biggest music store. It then reduced its floor space twice – once in 2002 and again in 2006 – before finally moving to a 12,500 sq ft space in 313@Somerset.

    In 2011, it shut its CityLink outlet and in 2013, its Somerset store closed, too. These closures left the music juggernaut with its last outlet at Marina Square. Its fate is shared with other music retailers including Tower Records and home-grown retail chain Sembawang Music Centre, which folded in 2006 and 2009, respectively, amid declining CD sales.

    Retail experts say that the rise of digital platforms for music and piracy led to the demise. Said Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim: “It is so easy to download music online. It isn’t expensive and you can pay per song instead of buying an entire album. Piracy is also rampant.”

    Mainstream CD stores here would find it hard to survive, she said, adding: “They should concentrate on niche music segments like jazz and probably need to sell other products like vintage furniture or open a cafe alongside the store to supplement business.”

    Mr Steven Goh who runs retail consultancy SG Retail Network is more pessimistic.

    “The CD business is very tough and such stores require big spaces. Rentals here are high, the sums just don’t add up,” he said, adding that there is little room to innovate.

    “Stores have tried allowing customers to download music at their stores, but people can just download music at home. I don’t think there is any hope.”

    Business consultant Terence Ho, 28, now buys music online. The last CD he bought was when he was a teenager. “There is so much variety online; and you can buy a song at a time,” he said.

    Fitness trainer Gina Farr, 31, cannot remember the last time she bought a CD in recent years. She now downloads a song a month. “It’s so easy, and who wants CDs cluttering up your house?” she asked.

  21. Keith says:

    Sunset grill has not closed down; it relocated to 259 Jalan Kayu.

  22. Another local icon gone…..

    Streetwear shop 77th Street to close by end-July

    29 June 2016
    Channel NewsAsia

    The road for iconic streetwear shop 77th Street has come to an end, with the shutters on its last shop at Ang Mo Kio Hub to come down by the end of July.

    The shop’s founder Elim Chew told Mediacorp in an exclusive interview that her decision to close the shop was mainly because of high rentals.

    “Well, you know, the dream during that time was to open up to 24 or 30 outlets all around Singapore. The rental was then affordable. But as the rental became higher and higher and higher, we find that we’re just working for the landlord to pay off the rental,” she said.

    “When I first started, (the rental rate) was S$9 per square foot, today it’s S$35 per square foot. So, you know, we decided that we shouldn’t embark into opening more shops.”

    Singapore’s retail scene has changed overall, she added. “Today, with the high rentals, many unique and different types of businesses that are very funky and cool, cannot sustain themselves. Now shops have changed. It’s the repetition of many shops in different (ways), that’s why we’re not becoming a shopping paradise.”

    Founded in 1988, 77th Street was popular among youngsters for its range of streetwear and accessories. Its first outlet was a small shop at Far East Plaza. At its peak, the streetwear chain had 16 stores across Singapore.

  23. Goodbye Song Kee Fishball Noodles

    02 August 2016

    Fishball fans will now have one less option to satisfy their cravings. The popular Song Kee Fishball Noodle, located at Upper Serangoon Road, has closed its doors.

    Announcing its closure on Facebook on Monday (Aug 1), the owners said that the stall has ceased operations on July 30, without elaborating why. They also thanked customers for their support and added that they appreciated their patronage in the past few years. The post has since received more than 140 shares.

    Song Kee Fishball Noodle at Upper Serangoon Road was a popular supper haunt and was known for its springy al-dente noodles, fishballs that are firm with a bouncy bite and juicy handmade fish dumplings. It would see packed crowds, with long queues that required a waiting time of 30 to 45 minutes.

    Customers who saw the news were taken aback by the closure.

    One Facebook user, Daren Cher commented: “What happened?! I haven’t got a chance to have my last try at your outlet.”

    Another, Amelia Ang, called it “shocking news”. “I thought my friends (were) kidding me. The best authentic fish ball noodles I have ever eaten in the entire Singapore. Let’s hope for (a) miracle.”

    The stall’s co-owner, Chua Poh Seng, was once named a “Singapore Hawker Master” in the Fishball Noodle category as part of Singapore Hawker Masters 2013 — which aimed to find the best hawkers in various categories.

    According to The Straits Times then, Chua ran the stall with his two older brothers, Chua Soo Meng and Chua Soo Chai.

    The stall first opened in Toa Payoh in 1966, before moving to Jurong East in 1989. It stayed there for about 20 years, before moving to the current location near the Bartley Road junction around five years ago.

    When TODAY visited the stall in the afternoon, the shutters were down, and the place was deserted.

    TODAY then visited another stall, which bore the same name, at Toa Payoh Lorong 5. A staff, who said he was related to Chua but declined to be named, said the owners “still wish to continue” but “one of the owners there suffers from rheumatism and the other has a bump on his hand”. He added that the sickness deterred them from working efficiently, which led to the store closing.

    Asked if it would reopen, he said: “Not anytime soon,” adding that “they are looking into other trades — buying and selling cars”.

    Vanessa Yeo, 32, who is a huge fan of the stall, is surprised and disappointed about the closure. “It’s one of my favourite fishball noodles,” said Yeo, who works in a bank. She had found out about the stall through a friend four years ago, and visits it once every three months.

    “The fishballs (there) are homemade and they are big — very generous,” she shared. “Other ingredients like the fish dumplings and the stuffed beancurd that they make themselves is very good. The chili as well,” she added.

    Asked if she would consider visiting other stalls like the one at Toa Payoh, Yeo, said while it is an inconvenient location for her, she would try it “if I get the chance to”.

  24. hmmm….

    Old-school eatery in Clementi to close

    08 Aug 2017
    The Straits Times

    Union Farm Eating House, the old-school eatery at 435A Clementi Road that is famous for its paper- wrapped chicken, will be closing early next month. Its second-generation owner, Mr Chia Kar Wing, 55, is looking to sell the brand as well as the recipe for the chicken dish.

    Contrary to a Shin Min Daily News report of an asking price of at least $2 million, he says he has not quoted a price and is open to discussions.

    He says in a mix of Mandarin and English: “I’m not sure how much my recipe is worth. If eventually we have no buyer, then it’s heaven’s will. We’ll have to see how it goes. Maybe I’ll find another job eventually.”

    Mr Chia, who is single, says he has no next generation to pass the business to and his family members are ageing. Regardless of whether a sale is made, the eatery will have to go because the landlord is selling the land, he says.

    He has been given a deadline to move out by October and had planned to stop operations at the end of this month. But he decided to continue until early next month for his loyal customers. Even extending by a few weeks, he says, is not easy because of the lack of manpower.

    He says that any potential buyer must be interested in running a food and beverage business, and must retain the tradition and taste of its moist paper-wrapped chicken.

    Union Farm Eating House opened in 1953 as a chicken farm. It started serving its signature paper- wrapped chicken – a recipe developed by Mr Chia’s late father – in the 1960s and became a full-fledged restaurant in the 1970s when the farm closed.

    The restaurant closed in February 2012 when the neighbouring Singapore Institute of Management asked for the return of its part of the land to expand its campus.

    Seven months later, Union Farm Eating House reopened with a smaller kitchen and menu. It retained its signature paper- wrapped chicken, along with other dishes such as egg noodles or bee hoon with oyster sauce, and fried quail.

    Sounding upbeat, Mr Chia says: “Many customers bring their third or fourth generation to dine with us. We are grateful for their support.

    “Hopefully, someone will continue the tradition of our paper- wrapped chicken.”

  25. Times Bookstores will close Centrepoint branch in September after 36 years

    02 August 2019
    The Straits Times

    Times Bookstores is closing its Centrepoint branch on Sept 23 as part of an “ongoing renewal of store locations from time to time”, said a spokesman for the chain on Friday (Aug 2).

    It is the latest in a slew of closures in Singapore’s book scene that has included Books Kinokuniya’s Liang Court outlet in April, Popular’s Thomson Plaza outlet in June and MPH’s last two local outlets. MPH’s Raffles City store closed on Sunday (July 28) and its Parkway Parade branch will close on Sept 1.

    Times Centrepoint opened in 1983 and was at the time one of the biggest bookstores in Singapore at 8,000 sq ft. It expanded across three floors in 2002 in an ambitious overhaul that included a Magnolia Snack Bar, but later downsized again.

    Photographer Gareth Phua fondly recalled watching his father, veteran book distributor Rudolf Phua, set up the Centrepoint store. An only child, he would hang out at the store after school.

    “I watched it grow from an empty shell to having its shelves fully stocked with books,” says the 47-year-old. He would tag along as his father went to the old Upper Thomson Road to chop up logs from fallen trees to be repurposed as stools in the children’s books section in the store.

    “It is a worrying trend that there are so many bookshops closing these few months,” he added. “Even though there is Amazon and Book Depository, I still prefer to go to bookstores so I can see the books, feel them and read through them before buying them.”

    Bookseller Ismail Osman, 67, learnt the ropes at Times Centrepoint from 1983 to 1988, where he handled fiction titles. He remembered how people would crowd outside the store’s 70m-long glass window to peer in. “It was like being in an aquarium.”

    Mr Ismail, who has spent 30 years in the book trade at Times and MPH and is now between jobs, added that he was deeply saddened at the recent closures. “For the staff, the bookstore is like your second home. We were like family.”

    Times has six remaining outlets in Singapore. It closed its Tampines One branch in August last year but opened its first standalone multi-category concept store for children, Times Junior, in Jewel Changi Airport in April.

    It also has outlets at Paragon, Plaza Singapura, Jelita, Marina Square and Waterway Point and sells online at

    The Centrepoint outlet is having a moving out sale with 50 per cent discount for members and 30 per cent discount for non-members until Sept 23.

  26. 😢

    Chinatown Complex’s Foo Leong Records to wind up business by end of November

    15 November 2019
    The Straits Times

    In its heyday in the 1980s, customers flocked to Foo Leong Records in Chinatown Complex to buy CDs of popular singers such as Fong Fei-fei or Leslie Cheung. But the record shop will wind up its business at the end of the month, its 79-year-old founder, Madam Wong Nam Thye, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.

    Madam Wong had started the business as a roadside stall in Pagoda Street in the 1960s before setting up shop in Chinatown Complex in 1983.

    With the rise of online music streaming and downloading services, CD sales have slowed dramatically. In the past four years, Madam Wong said she has been losing about $1,000 a month, despite reducing the size of her store to cut rental costs last year.

    “I had wanted to keep the store going just a day at a time,” Madam Wong told Lianhe Wanbao. “It has been 36 years and I really cannot bear to close it down.”

    She said of Foo Leong Records, which is named after her son: “To me, the shop feels like a child I have been nurturing all this time.”

    At one point, she even pawned off her gold ornaments from her dowry to pay for rent. However, despite her best efforts, she has exhausted all means to keep Foo Leong Records in business.

    Two weeks ago, she began clearance sales, reducing the prices of her CDs from more than $10 to $2. Although she is making a loss, she is hoping only to earn what little money she can. After learning of the store’s impending closure, many old customers have taken the time to visit the store one last time to browse or buy CDs.

  27. Home-grown sports retailer Sportslink goes out of business

    8 July 2020
    The Straits Times

    Home-grown sports retail chain Sportslink wound up last Friday (July 3) after accumulating debts to a “substantial number” of creditors.

    This includes employees who are owed a month’s salary, Farooq Mann, founder and director of Mann & Associates, the court-appointed liquidator, told The Straits Times.

    “I will convene a creditors’ meeting within the next two weeks to notify them that the company has gone into liquidation, to disclose to them the affairs of the company, and to invite them to file claims,” said Mr Mann on Monday.

    On June 9, Adidas Singapore Pte Ltd had filed an application with the High Court for the winding up of Sportslink. When contacted before Friday’s decision, Adidas declined to comment.

    The news of Sportslink’s liquidation comes barely two weeks after it announced its reopening in a June 22 Facebook post following the easing of circuit breaker measures on June 19.

    The measures, which were implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus, saw retail stores across the country shut from April 7.

    Founded in 1983 by the late Mr Lim Kau Tee as Sports Interlink, a single store in Queensway Shopping Centre, the company was registered as a sole proprietorship four years later with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) as Sportslink.

    Sports Link Pte Ltd (SLH) was later registered in 1994.

    Sportslink, which sold sporting goods and apparel from international brands, was a hit with heartlanders because of its reasonable pricing. It extended its reach to suburban malls in 1995 and by 2002, the chain had expanded its footprint to 11 outlets. This grew to 35 by 2015, by which time the company also boasted 190 employees.

    But in a Facebook post announcing its Chinese New Year operating hours on Jan 22, only nine outlets, including a factory outlet, were listed.

    In 2010, SLH also opened several speciality stores, such as Hoops Factory, which was the first basketball speciality store in Singapore.

    Mr Mann noted that all intellectual property assets of SHL such as these are also “being looked at”.

    Former patron Trevor Sim said he used to visit Sportslink outlets “quite frequently” in the 2000s, but less so in the last 10 years.

    “It’s sad to hear of a local brand going out of business,” said the 42-year-old executive, who is an avid runner.

    “Sportslink used to be the go-to when you needed quality sports equipment at low prices, and at short notice, because they had so many outlets.”

    “I don’t know what caused them (to wind up) but perhaps people having so many more options now, especially online, could have contributed.”

  28. Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant closes after 43 years, felled by impact of COVID-19

    15 August 2020

    After 43 years, Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant will spin no more.

    According to an 8world News report on Friday (Aug 14), the restaurant said that its closure was due to the impact of COVID-19. Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant was closed on Apr 6, a day before “circuit breaker” measures came into force.

    Plans had been made for the restaurant to reopen on Aug 1, but the toll that the pandemic took on the food and beverage industry meant it was one of many eateries forced to shutter its doors for good.

    As of 2pm on Saturday, the Prima Tower website is no longer accessible. Mr Jiang Yongyao, chairman of Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, told 8world News that closing the restaurant was a difficult decision.

    “It’s a shame that a 43-year-old business has come to this,” he said. According to Mr Jiang, about 30 employees are affected by the closure. The company consulted the Singapore Hotel Association and the Food, Drinks & Allied Workers Union (FDAWU) on a severance package for the employees.

    Prima Group, which owns the restaurant, will also seek the help of Workforce Singapore and the National Trades Union Congress to seek employment or skills training opportunities for those affected.

    Employees of the restaurant told 8world News that some staff members might be transferred to other departments, but were unsure of other developments. A foreign worker said that he was relatively satisfied with the severance package, and planned to return to China.

    Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant opened in 1977. Touted to be the “world’s only revolving restaurant nestled on a grain silo” on Prima’s website, it offers authentic Beijing fare, as well as panoramic views of Sentosa Island, Mount Faber and the Singapore Cable Car.

  29. 😥

    91-year-old hawker behind historic wonton noodle stall calls it quits

    5 December 2020
    CNA Insider

    For nearly six decades, hawker Leong Yuet Meng, 91, had been getting up before the crack of dawn six days a week, to prepare her old-school wonton noodles.

    One of Singapore’s oldest hawkers if not the oldest, this Cantonese cook is well known as the founder of the Nam Seng Noodle House that was just outside the old National Library in Stamford Road.

    But she has closed her only stall, in Far East Square along China Street, where she had relocated 20 years ago. It is a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis, with the work-from-home norm having hollowed out the Central Business District.

    “The business dropped drastically overnight. It was very hard to get back to where we were before,” she said.

    “Ideally, I’d like to continue … I hope to preserve my brand (Nam Seng) — I built it up with a lot of hardship.”

    In the programme Belly Of A Nation, hawkers such as Leong share their fears and dismay during the pandemic, and relate how getting by became more and more challenging.


    It was in 1962 when Leong opened her stall — financed by her late husband — at a little food centre in front of the old National Library.

    Her first foray into the hawker trade had been to sell chicken porridge and macaroni at a school in Queen Street, but she learnt to make wonton mee from her cousin, an amah who also sold this dish in Chinatown.

    The stall’s name was suggested by her mother-in-law. “Nam means Nanyang (the region encompassing Malaya and the wider Southeast Asia), since we were doing business in Nanyang, and Seng represents a successful business,” said Leong.

    During the withdrawal of British troops from Singapore later in the 1960s, her husband, who worked as a clerk for the British, was offered a chance to move his family to the United Kingdom.

    “I said, ‘Please don’t joke with me. Go overseas? I don’t know a single English word. I’ll stay here,’” she recalled.

    Back then, they sold their signature dish for 30 cents a bowl.

    “You’d have had wonton, noodles and char siu,” she said. “I started at 30 cents and increased it to 50 cents (and then) to 70 cents; then from a dollar … until today’s S$5.”

    Before the library was torn down, she relocated to Joo Chiat and then accepted an invitation to open a stall at Far East Square, where she also sold fried rice, venison hor fun and seafood hor fun.

    Although she had a small team of helpers, Leong was still very involved in running the stall, including waking up early in the morning to pick up fresh produce at a wet market in Toa Payoh, where she lives.

    Her second son, Michael Tang, would send her to Nam Seng, where she would spend the day making the wontons from scratch and taking customers’ orders.

    “I like to be hands-on … A person must be able to do everything. I don’t rely on the workers,” she said.

    “If you want to make money, don’t complain about hardship. Go back home to sleep if you worry about hardship.”

    For two decades, she witnessed life in busy China Street, but that came to a halt when COVID-19 struck.

    At her age, she belongs to the high-risk group, and with people also staying away from the CBD, she shut the stall temporarily. But the restless matriarch complained about being bored during the “circuit breaker” period.

    “I just stayed at home for two months,” she said. “I read the newspapers, and sometimes I watched television.”

    Leong also resumed business after the circuit breaker measures were lifted. “I did so immediately, even if it was just to meet people,” she said.

    However, as her customers were mostly office workers in the CBD, business was quiet. In July, she closed her Far East Square outlet for good, owing to the dwindling crowd as well as leasing issues.

    “When I started renting there 20 years ago, the people (building management) were nice. Who knew that they’d change this year and become difficult to talk to?” she said.

    One of her employees has returned to China, another went to work in her brother’s restaurant and the last one “wanted to rest”.

    At her age, Leong should be retiring comfortably, but she is adamant about keeping the Nam Seng brand alive.

    “I’ve worked for so many years. My focus and dedication these last 60 years have been for my brand. How can I bear to let it go?” she said.

    “We’ll take our time, and we’ll find a new place. We’ll make a comeback. I’ll inform all of you through the newspapers, the Internet and telephone when we open once again.”

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