Still of sound mind

Still of sound mind

How do some shops survive for decades? In the first of this new series, LAKEISHA LEO (tnp@sph.com.sg) learns their secrets

The shop sits on the third storey of Sim Lim Tower, a shopping mall and office building that opened in the 1980s.

Tai Cheong Radio Service is near the escalator, flanked by a variety of electronics stores.

Its owners have been fixing vintage hi-fi equipment since the 1950s, and the shop has been at its present location since 1989.

"It is for decoration," says Mr Lim Eng Boon, 64, who has a daughter in her 20s, of the unused speaker drivers hanging from the ceiling in the store.

"This is an old shop, so it needs to use old things as decoration."

Old men gather in the shop to chat with the two owners.

Inside, the shop is cluttered with parts in every corner. Some of the speaker drivers are so old, the metal has rusted.

Tai Cheong Radio Service specialises in speaker driver repairs and is owned by Mr Lim and his younger brother, Mr Lim Eng Khoon.

It was started by their father along Pasar Lane in the 1950s before it moved to Sim Lim Tower.

It caters to a niche audience and has a steady stream of customers.

There are few shops in Singapore that does what Tai Cheong Radio Service does.

If you want a vintage speaker driver fixed, this is the place to go.

The younger Mr Lim, 62, who has two sons in their 20s and a teenage daughter, tells The New Paper on Sunday that he started working in the shop when he was 17.

He says in Mandarin: "I wasn't interested in studying, so I fiddled around with the equipment in the shop because I was more interested in that."

"And so I played around until this turned into my full-time job."

The younger Mr Lim is also in charge of repairing the speaker drivers and says his hands "cannot stop working".

He was repairing a pair of vintage speaker drivers when we visited.

He says in Mandarin: "You can't find this anywhere else, and one speaker driver costs about $200."

"Here, we charge around $40 to repair it."

The shop makes enough for the brothers to earn at least $1,000 each month.

About 30 years ago, they could each take home at least $2,000 every month.

They do not have to worry about rent because their father bought the shop. Nor do they have concerns about it being sold en bloc in the future.

But they lament the fact that the shop will not be passed down to the children.

The older Mr Lim says: "They have no interest in repairing speakers.

"Even when we used to bring our children to the shop, they didn't fiddle around with speakers or audio equipment.

"After all, they are university graduates, they won't be interested in repair jobs."


This article was first published on Aug 21, 2016.
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