Family-run coffee shop in Penang forced to close after 67 years

Family-run coffee shop in Penang forced to close after 67 years
Last cuppa: Chin making coffee at Wah Keong Coffee Shop on the last day of its operations at the junction of Malay Street Ghaut and Beach Street, Penang.
PHOTO: The Star

GEORGE TOWN: It will be tough for the Teoh siblings if they stop operating the traditional family-run coffee shop business established by their late father 67 years ago.

Sisters Teoh Ai Tin, 67, and Ai Ling, 61, together with their brother Keng Wah, 56, grew up helping out at the Wah Keong Coffee Shop located at the Malay Street Ghaut-Beach Street junction.

The three inherited the business after their father It Chin passed away some 30 years ago. They are dependent on the coffee shop, which sells drinks all day long and economy rice during lunch hours, to support their families.

However, the siblings received eviction letters from the building owner in March and November last year, asking them to move out to make way for renovation works.

When met at the shop yesterday, Keng Wah said this was the last day of the coffee shop's operations.

"We will stop our business for now, and the keys will be handed back on Friday to the owner, which is a Chinese kongsi.

"My future is uncertain, now that I have no other means to make a living," he said.

His wife Chin Kim Ching, 53, who also helped out at the coffee shop, said the present monthly rental was RM750 but when they asked the owner how much they had to pay to continue renting the unit, they were not given a definite answer.

"The owner, however, hinted that the rental would be 'almost the same' as the neighbouring unit, which was RM3,500.

"We cannot afford such high rental. The most we can pay is RM1,500 as business has not been too good in recent years," she said.

Chin said if they could not find a suitable place to run a coffee shop, she would have to get a job.

"We are already in our 50s and 60s. I doubt if anyone would want to hire us to work. It is with a heavy heart that we leave this place after so long."

Non-governmental organisation Young Master Movement secretary Loh Kit Mun, who held a press conference at the coffee shop, said they were saddened when they found out about the closure of another traditional trade in George Town Heritage Zone.

He said a traditional herbal tea shop, Shong Hor Hin Medicated Tea Stall, in Kimberley Street recently closed down after 64 years in business.

"Traditional coffee shops are part of Penang's intangible heritage and I hope that more people, especially the younger generation, will treasure these traditional trades.

"We will help the Teoh siblings look for affordable and suitable premises, so that they are able to continue their coffee shop business," he said.


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