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90-year-old former Sungei Road Market vendor: “I cannot even earn enough for my daily cup of coffee” at Chinatown

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90-year-old Mr Tang Kong Yuen has reported that he has yet to make a sale at his new Chinatown Market stall despite being there for the past two weeks since he moved out of Sungei Road Market which is to be closed down for demolition tomorrow.

The first-generation hawker is one of 11 others who was offered a full rental subsidy for the first year at Chinatown market. He makes a living selling gemstones, power tools, old mobile phones and the like.

In speaking to TODAY, he said:

“Back at the Sungei Road Market, I could earn about S$50 to S$60 a day without even batting an eyelid. Now, I cannot even earn enough for my daily cup of coffee.”

Another vendor who had operated at Sungei Road Market for 20 years, Mr Hew Beong Fah said that he misses the “good old days” at the open-air Market as opposed to his new stall at Chinatown Complex:

“There is not much of a crowd here… On a good day, can earn about S$100, but it really depends. Most days I get nothing. Of course I prefer Sungei Road, there will usually be a crowd. But I will probably stay here for a year.”
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Madam Tan Guo Mei, an antiques vendor who used to sell her wares at Sungei Road Market for half a decade echoed her old neighbours’ sentiments and said:

“If you scatter us, one to the east, another to the west, it’s very difficult to do business. It won’t work.”

70-year-old Mr Chin Kim Boh has been returning to Sungei Road to sell his wares during the Market’s final days despite having been allocated a stall at Golden Mile Food Centre. He has been operating at the Food Center for a month.

Like the others who have moved out of Sungei Road, Mr Chin, too, is finding it difficult to attract customers at his new stall:

“It (his new stall) is hidden right at the back, people say customers just look at the front and stop. I am not sure either.
“I did not expect it to be like that because when I first visited, it looked crowded, but I guess people just come here for a meal and go back to work. Or maybe, my wares are more suitable for the crowd at Thieves’ Market.”

He said that he returned to Sungei Road Market in its last days as all his friends are there:

“We know one another well and buy items off each other. It is easier to pass the time here, I can always walk around, look around, talk to people. Time passes very slowly (at the new shop) and I spent a lot of time looking at the mobile phone…My neighbours are mostly busy doing business in their own shop.”

Sungei Road Market has existed as Singapore’s oldest and largest flea market since it was started eight decades ago, in the 1930s.

The authorities who have earmarked Sungei Road Market’s plot for immediate demolition and redevelopment have rejected proposals to collectively relocate the market to another area so as to preserve the market’s rich history and heritage.

Activists from the Association For Recycling Of Second Hand Goods released a statement today inviting all to come and witness the closing hour of Sungei Road Market tomorrow, 10 July 2017, at Larut Road from 7.30pm.
The President of the Association will make an announcement on the group’s plans and take questions.
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