Old-School Kopitiam in Tiong Bahru Closing for Good After Operating for 50 Years

Last Updated on 2023-05-24 , 11:26 am

We come bearing some bad news for local heritage lovers and foodies.

An old-school kopitiam in Tiong Bahru is closing soon. After half a century in operation.

While people say, “out with the old and in with the new”, somehow hearing this news makes our hearts heavy. Perhaps we are more of the team “old is gold”.

Here are some details of this coffee shop closure.

Old-School Coffee Shop in Tiong Bahru Is Closing in June

The coffee shop in Tiong Bahru with its iconic green shutters will shutter for good come 27 June. This coffee shop is none other than the long-established coffee shop along Seng Poh Road and Eng Watt Street.

Some may know this coffee shop as the former location of the famous Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice. The curry rice stall has since relocated to the nearby Tiong Bahru Food Centre, which is a stone’s throw away.

Those familiar with the area may know that the coffee shop has a mere four stalls. Quite a lean number of stalls, when compared to larger hawker centres around Singapore such as People’s Park Food Centre or Amoy Food Centre.

With its small size and green sliding shutters, one can’t help but reminisce about the coffee shops which were prevalent in the 1960s.

However, being small does not mean being weak. This coffee shop boasts a variety of food offerings, including bar chor mee (minced meat noodles), vegetarian food, nasi lemak (coconut-flavoured rice) and a quintessential drinks stall.

That’s quite balanced, catering to people with a wide range of dietary requirements.

The good news is that fans of the vegetarian stall can continue to enjoy the food at Tiong Bahru Food Centre across the street from its current location. The owners of that hawker stall have announced on their Facebook page that they would be relocating there.

The Coffee Shop Operator Wants to Take a Break and Retire After 40 Years of Being a Hawker

According to Shin Min, the drinks stall operator, Mr Wang (Hanyu pinyin), is also the operator of the coffee shop. The 57-year-old shares that he rents the place from the landlord and subleases the stalls out to others.

As to the reason why they decided to stop operating the coffee shop, Mr Wang expresses that he is tired and wants a break. After all, he and his wife have over 40 years of hawker experience, and their bodies are covered with wounds. He is also drawn out from having to handle all the issues that crop up with the leasing of the coffee shop.

It is also time for Mr Wang to retire and enjoy the remainder of his life. Mr Wang divulges that his children are now grown up with their own careers, and his youngest son is studying engineering. He decided (albeit reluctantly) that it was now time to retire and do what he wanted to do.

We can imagine the reluctance. After all, Mr Wang spent so many years cultivating relationships with the residents in the area, and many of them have strong attachments to the place.

To put his retirement plans into motion, Mr Wang has been planning for the coffee shop closure for some time.

Back in April this year, Mr Wang had given the other three stall owners a heads-up about the closure so that they would have time to find alternative locations to continue their businesses.

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Locals Are Sad That the Coffee Shop Is Closing

Unsurprisingly, the impending closure of the coffee shop was met with sighs of regret from many patrons. Many of the loyal customers thought that the closure was too sudden.

One of the regular patrons, 56-year-old Lin Cheng Fa (Hanyu pinyin), who works as a graphic designer, says that the food and old-school atmosphere of the coffee shop was a draw for many. This was despite the small size of the coffee shop and limited seating in the area.

Lin has been a patron of the coffee shop for almost eight years and loves to eat bar chor mee or vegetarian food at the coffee shop.

Another customer who frequents the coffee shop is Mr Mao (Hanyu pinyin), a 63-year-old man. He says that he had been patronising the bar chor mee stall since 20 years ago, when it was still located in Chinatown. Before the coffee shop closes for good, he intends to visit the stall at least once every week.

A loyal customer indeed.

Yet another customer, 40-year-old Chen He Feng (Hanyu pinyin), who is self-employed, laments the loss of the rustic charm of Tiong Bahru. He expresses that the closure of this coffee shop will only mark the continuance of a trend where many of the iconic eateries and retail shops cease business in favour of rest.

According to Chen, having these old brands disappear one by one evokes a sense of sadness.

Another old-school food establishment in the Tiong Bahru area which closed, was Tiong Bahru Glacier Pastry bakery. The bakery stopped operating its outlet last year. It had been around for many decades and was known for its traditional Nyonya kueh.

We couldn’t agree more.

If you would like to get a taste of that popular bar chor mee or snap some pictures at an old-school coffee shop, make sure you head down soon, within the next month, before it’s too late.

Do you think Singapore should be doing more to save our local retro cultural scene, or is it fine that we let the old go to make space for newer and more modern establishments?