It’s always sad when your favourite hawker stall closes its shutters for the last time.
The stall owners of the Michelin-recognised Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow stall at 20 Ghim Moh Road Market & Food Centre announced their official retirement on 27 November.
Following a health scare, the stall owners decided to retire.
Reasons for Retirement
Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow is run by 78-year-old Mr Tan Hock Guan and his wife, 76-year-old Madam Chang Kha Noi.
After over 50 years in the business, the couple decided it was an appropriate time to retire.
They announced the news on 27 November via the stall’s Facebook page.
The couple wrote, “Dear valued customers, with a heavy and grateful heart, Uncle and Auntie of Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow stall would like to announce our official retirement.
“We are extremely thankful for all your support these years. Thank you, and see you all around. Take care!”
They did not mention when their last day of operations would be.
On 21 November, Mr Tan got a health scare while stir-frying char kway teow.
He was preparing his last ten plates of char kway teow for the day when he lost consciousness.
Mr Tan woke up in the hospital.
Madam Chang informed him that he had suddenly fainted.
Speaking to Shin Min Daily News on 30 November, Mr Tan said, “Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head. I only had a slight pain in my arms and ribs.”
The doctor advised Mr Tan to rest for a month and not drive.
However, the health scare caused the couple to realise the importance of their well-being, and they decided to officially retire from the hawker business.
Had Been Thinking of Retirement for Quite Some Time
Mr Tan and Madam Chang’s grandson told The Straits Times that the signs that the couple needed to step back have been present for a while.
Their grandson, who declined to be named, mentioned that the couple struggled with the physical intensity of running a hawker stall.
Sometimes, the couple would start their day at 3 am to make up for their slower pace.
Mr Tan told Shin Min Daily News that the couple had been considering retirement for a couple of years.
The idea came to them two years ago due to Madam Chang’s health.
However, the couple didn’t want to disappoint customers and delayed their retirement.
To cope, they gradually reduced the stall’s working days from four days a week to three days and, finally, to only two days.
The history of the stall’s Facebook posts reflects these changes.
On 9 June, the couple announced that Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow would be open for business on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Based on the stall’s Facebook post history, it changed its working hours to weekends from 13 July onwards.
Mr Tan’s health scare was the last straw for the couple.
He said that following the incident, the couple realised that health is the most important thing.
He added, “If something happens again when we fry kway teow in the future, we may not be as lucky as this time.”
History of Guan Kee Char Kway Teow
Mr Tan and Madam Chang founded the stall in 1969 at the location now occupied by Thye Hong Centre in Redhill.
In 1978, the stall moved to its current location.
According to Shin Min Daily News, Mr Tan credits his success to a late friend, who showed him how to make the dish.
Mr Tan was initially a grocery store employee.
When he first learnt to fry char kway teow, he was unemployed.
His friend pitched the idea for fried kway teow and guided him.
With his help, Mr Tan learnt to make the char kway teow his customers know and love today.
The stall is famous for its snaking queues and has been featured in The Sunday Times and Lianhe Zaobao.
In 2019, the stall even clinched a spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list.
In 2013, right before the Ghim Moh food centre underwent a three-year revamp, Mr Tan told The Straits Times that he was dedicated to his craft and would continue cooking if he was still healthy after the renovations.
According to The Straits Times, customers were disappointed when they found the stall shuttered on the morning of 28 November.
Some people who had never tried the stall’s char kway teow had visited the stall, hoping to try the famed dish for the first time.
In the comments section of Guan Kee Char Kway Teow’s retirement announcement, customers expressed their well-wishes for the couple.
Besides wishing them a happy retirement, customers thanked Mr Tan and Madam Chang for their years of service.
Their grandson noted that the stall was more than just a business for the couple.
It was a “cornerstone of their lives”.
He added that the couple greatly appreciated their customers and that operating their stall provided fulfilment.
The Future of Hawker Stalls in Singapore
With more hawkers retiring from old age, what will become of Singapore’s hawker culture?
In 2020, The Straits Times reported that the median age for hawkers is 59.
Furthermore, long-time hawkers acknowledged the difficulties of the profession, from needing to “wake up early”, “return home late” and work in a “hot and humid” environment.
Thus, being a hawker takes work, with succession being a headache for many stall owners to think about.
In 2020, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced the implementation of a new scheme to help the problems that hawkers face.
The hawker succession scheme was proposed by a workgroup in 2019.
Under the scheme, some retiring hawkers who couldn’t hand over their stalls to non-relatives would finally be allowed to do so under relaxed rules.
This would ensure that Singapore’s hawker culture continues to stay alive.
- Now That The Budget 2024 Statement is Out, Here’s What to Expect in the Next Few Weeks
- S’pore Address Rumours That We Pay Millions So Taylor Swift Won’t Perform in Other Southeast Asia Countries for Her Tour
- Chinese Actress Came Back from Vacation to Her House Burglarised With All Valuables Gone
- Everything About the Changes in CPF That Were Mentioned During Budget 2024
- Aide Dismisses Claims That M’sia Ex-PM Mahathir is in Critical Condition
- You Can’t Take Chickens from The Road to Cook It; NParks Now Investigating Man Who Caught Wild Chicken at Pasir Ris
- ECDA Completed Assessment of Kinderland Saga; Licence Tenures Limit in 2 Centres to Continue