Standalone kiosks operating at the void decks of old Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks, fondly known as mamak 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 mamak shops, and their numbers dwindled to only 300-plus currently.
A typical mamak shop, like the old mamak 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.
“Mamak” in Tamil means uncle, which probably explains the reason why these provision shops are called mamak shops. Usually they are manned by the Indian Muslims.
Other than located at the void decks of old flats, many mamak 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 mamak 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 mamak shops is bleak.
The picture below shows a typical mamak 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: 27 August 2021
EH… That Mama shop for that last Picture was taken at Blk 35 Marsiling Drive isn’t it?
It’s at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 and has been operating there for some 25 years 😉
Hi, May I know the Mama Shop is it located at Siang Kung Avenue?
Yes, it is beside the kopitiam which sells the famous prawn mee (Hoe Nam Prawn Noodle).
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! =)
Great site!! Memories of my childhood are flooding back now. I’m from Chong Li Primary too! Which year did you graduate?
Thanks for your interest..
I’m from the 1982-88 batch 😉
You’re 4 years my senior then… I’m from 86-92. Great to bump into someone from CLPS. Keep up the excellent work!
O.O Another CLPS here. Still remember this video? https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=3084794483109
Oh my goodness! Bring a tear to my eyes… Thanks!
Great site! And i graduated in 94 from CLPS! Transferred from Yuqun in jurong in 90 to CLPS. Good ol days. I remembered being the tallest girl and among the boys catching spiders at the end of the field or with the girls playing zero point and watching the Anderson’s boys lol.
Now Pathlight School Campus 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My family used to live at 16 Siang Kuang Avenue in the 50’s. Remember going to buy lollies from that same mama shop.
I was staying 4 houses away at no 10, at the T junction, my grandparent’s place. I would frequent the mama shop just opposit, next to the laundry, operated by Yacob.
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.
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
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.
There was a great one in Lorong Telok of Circular Road until a few years age
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.
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.
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!
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
A typical mama shop at void deck
(Photo credit: http://mynicehome.sg/)
how do i get to this MacPherson mama shop?? im interested in photography and ill love to capture the class times of Singapore !! please help much needed
There is still one more at the entrance of Sin Ming Road – Via Upper Thomson road
i wish to know where can i find this old type of mama shop? As i really wish to go take all photos of these places for memories. Thanks
Yes, the mama stall at Siang Kuang Ave is unique in some of the things and magazines which it sells. It seemed to be a bit upmarket from the rest of those in Singapore at that time. I used to frequent this stall during the 60s and 70s because they sold ‘Airfix’ soldier sets and model planes (for assembly).
There’s one mama shop at Tampines Blk 238..been there for more than 27 years.He used to sell per stick cigarettes from 15 to 25 cents wakakaka
Impressive miniature art work of a nostalgic mama shop by Wilfred Cheah