For many of us, Chinese New Year Eve was a day of spring cleaning, of getting ready to open new businesses, of starting a new chapter in our lives.
However, for 50-year-old single father Andrew, the day marked the end of his career as a rojak stall owner.
Here’s what happened.
If you think being a hawker is lucrative, think again.
In an interview with Shinmin Daily News, Andrew said that he had turned to selling rojak at a hawker stall after a road accident in 2021 left him with a broken arm.
At the time of the accident, Andrew was working as a food delivery driver.
During that time, as he was job searching after his accident, a rojak stall owner offered to teach him the skills to make rojak and gave up his stall to him, allowing Andrew to embark on his new career selling rojak at the neighbourhood coffee shop in Telok Blangah Ridge.
Sounds good; almost like the story of Heartbreak Melts, right?
But no; unlike Heartbreak Melts, an ice-cream cafe that has gone viral on TikTok due to the owner’s ingenious marketing, the rojak stall went under instead.
According to Andrew, with inflation, customers have tightened their pockets amidst rising food prices, and their unwillingness to spend caused Andrew’s business outlook to turn bleaker as the days passed.
How bad, you ask.
He revealed that for a month or two, after excluding rent and other costs, Andrew earned a mere $400 a month from selling rojak and otah.
“Some days I earn a minimum of $12, while the maximum in a day is $65,” he disclosed, adding that operating costs have increased by 20%, yet for the sake of retaining customers, he has not increased the prices of rojak and otah.
In order to financially support his 9-year-old son residing in Thailand with his ex-wife, Andrew has a second job as a security guard at a hotel that pays him $100 a day.
Every month, Andrew is expected to contribute $1,000 for his son’s living expenses.
Closing the Stall
It was out of desperation that led to the closure. Andrew said, “I did think about the possibility of opening the rojak stall at another coffee shop with better location and human traffic, but the rent was impossible for me to afford. The rental costs amount to $3,000 a month. I had no choice but to let go of the opportunity.”
When he was running the rojak stall and working in his second job, he’s a hotel security guard from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am, working the night shift for a total of 12 hours. After getting off work, he returns home to catch a two-to-three hour nap before he returns to the coffee shop to open his rojak stall.
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