Tussle for shop space in Tiong Bahru

Tussle for shop space in Tiong Bahru

Every now and then, Mr Cheng Mook Boon, 65, is offered millions of dollars by people who are keen on buying his coffee shop in Tiong Bahru.

He and his wife, Madam Lim Toi Ang, 62, have been selling Hainanese curry rice at Yong Siak Street for 23 years.

Back then, the 1,800 sq ft corner unit was worth less than $250,000, a far cry from an offer of $12 million several months ago. There have also been those willing to pay him $20,000 a month to rent the place.

But the couple is not swayed by these generous offers. They have three children and their eldest daughter, Ms Dawn Cheng, 39, helps with the business.

Mr Cheng says: "Money cannot talk to me, what is more important is what I wake up to every day and how we spend our sunset years."

While he remains resolute, elsewhere in Tiong Bahru, other decades-old businesses have handed their shops over to entrepreneurs drawn to the hip neighbourhood, which has been featured in international publications such as The New York Times.

According to the director of PropertyBank, Ms Edith Tay, who is in her 40s, monthly rental for shop space in Tiong Bahru ranges between $6 and $12 per sq ft. A three-storey, freehold 887 sq ft commercial unit in the area was sold for $4.3 million late last year.

In the last three years, provision shops, an egg seller and a coffee shop have made way for new tenants.

The wave of new ventures began around 2010, when artisanal coffee joint 40 Hands, opened by Australian barista Harry Grover and the Spa Esprit Group, opened in sleepy Yong Siak Street. Since then, clothing boutiques, cafes, patisseries and bookstores have sprouted up all over the neighbourhood.

There are currently 22 food and beverage outlets among the 64 HDB commercial properties in Tiong Bahru.

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