As Singaporeans are plagued by rising costs, small businesses like hawker stalls may be bearing the brunt of it.
Many of them are now faced with the tough choice of raising their prices to survive or shutting down entirely.
One fishball noodles stall in Bukit Timah — known for their handmade fishballs — has thus decided to close down after 45 years of operations.
Their owners have cited rising costs and a drop in business volume.
According to Shin Min Daily News, the stall in question is Teck Hin Fishball Noodle, located in Bukit Timah Food Centre.
Before that happens, Teck Hin announced on Saturday (2 Dec) that it would be closing down.
The stall’s owners, elderly couple Chen Huoyan and Wang Yafu (transliterated from Mandarin), said the business was established in 1978.
Before that, Mr Chen learnt how to make fishballs by hand in 1975 as an assistant at a stall on Holland Road.
While their original stall was situated at a coffee shop near the Clementi Bus Interchange, they moved to Bukit Timah Food Centre three-and-a-half years ago — amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Though Mr Chen is now 74 years old, he still wakes up at 2am daily to mash up fish meat at the factory.
He then makes fresh fishballs by hand.
This results in bouncy fishballs with an umami taste.
While business was still good throughout the pandemic, it started to take a dip four or five months ago.
The couple found that business volume had dropped by more than 30%, making it difficult to recoup their capital.
This was coupled with a rise in business costs, including an increase in the prices of raw ingredients.
Together with the rental rates, it ended up costing more than S$4,000 a month to keep the stall open.
Faced with such difficulties, some hawkers would find it justifiable to raise prices.
But Mr Chen didn’t want to do that, fearing he would lose customers.
Madam Wang, 69, said the couple resorted to digging into their savings to survive.
Thus, they decided to bite the bullet and shut down.
They originally planned for Sunday (3 Dec) to be their last day.
However, due to requests from customers, they decided to open for three more days. Their final day of operations will thus be on Wednesday (6 Dec).
Upon hearing about their closure, a customer named Ms Liang (transliterated from Mandarin) rushed down from Clementi to eat from them one last time.
The 56-year-old retiree said she’d been patronising the stall since they were at Clementi and was sad to see them go.
If you miss out on their last day, fret not — Mr Chen is planning to open the stall at a new location.
He thinks he can still work for a few more years despite the tough job and is willing to reopen at either a hawker centre or coffee shop, he said.
As for the financial side, he only aspires to recoup his business costs and make enough to live on, he added.
Another fan, 75-year-old Zhu Miaoping (transliterated from Mandarin), is one of those who will be keeping an eye out for their return.
Though she’s only patronised them for four months since she moved to Bukit Timah, she has been dabao-ing their food every week.
When she heard they were closing, she got Mr Chen’s contact details so she could be informed about his next move, saying,
No matter how far away they move, I will go.
Since they have such loyal fans, let’s hope Teck Hin will make a comeback sooner rather than later.
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