Mama shops in S’pore are disappearing, and here’s why we all contribute to it

The favourite part of our childhood were the daily trips we made to the Mama Shops at the void deck.

These convenience stores are called mama shops not because it’s where our mothers always go to buy things, but because they were set up by Indian businessmen.

“Mamak” is known as uncle or elder in Tamil. There used to be plenty of mama shops scattered around Singapore, and each area with which these mama shops operate in seemed to be a modern day village, with neighbors and friends getting everything from the shop, almost like how they got all their foodstuff and house things from the one and only convenience store in the village back then.

But things have changed since then, and if you’ve paid notice, you’ll have seen that plenty of mama shops were closed down, and those which are still open are struggling just to stay afloat.

With businesses like FairPrice, Giant and 7-11, mama shops are facing stiff competition and losing their customers at an alarming rate.

These chains have the ability to buy in bulk, which allows them leeway in setting their prices while mama shops usually have no choice but to sell at a higher price because they do not enjoy the economies of scale the bigger companies have.

For residents in areas which don’t have a supermarket located conveniently nearby, the residents do purchase from mama shops. And of course, many of the residents bought from mama shop because they could also chat with the owners.

However, given the rate of heartland malls popping up in Singapore, we won’t be surprised if mama shops were to become an extinct facet of our past. Would you? The young people of today are said to have a negative perception of mama shops, regarding them as smelly and dirty.

 This is so unlike our time, where we love visiting the mama shop for the ice cream, the 20 cents frozen treat and even Pokemon cards.

It feels a bit sad to know that there is a possibility that in the future, our grandchildren, or maybe even our children, will only be able to read about these “mama” shops in history books.

Now, if you see a mama shop, here’s a suggestion: get something from them. It might not seem a lot to you, but it’s a lot to them.

Let the tradition live on while it lasts.

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