JOHOR BARU - There are countless places that bring Malaysians together through their love of food.
But not many hold the distinction of doing it for as long as the Salahuddin Bakery at Jalan Dhoby in the old part of the city here.
Since 1937, the family-run outfit has served Malaysians from all walks of life with their old-world style breads churned out from a coal-fired oven.
Today, it remains a favourite with those longing for freshly baked breads.
"The shop was opened by my late grandfather Shariff Mohamed Mahku, who came to Johor Baru from New Delhi," said Salahuddin Shamsul (pic).
The 50-year-old proprietor, who inherited the business from his late father Shamsul Haq some 14 years ago, said the bakery was one of the first shops opened at Jalan Dhoby - a street named after laundry shops run by Indians in the area.
Salahuddin said his customers come from all over the country and from across the causeway.
He said little had changed over the years, including the coal-fired oven that gives the bakery much of its old-world charm.
Customers will see black-and-white photos of Shariff and Shamsul on the wall along with newspapers clippings on the shop from previous years.
"My regular customers, whether they are Malays, Chinese, Indians or Eurasians, always enjoy the pastries and breads from our shop as breads baked using coal are hardly available in Johor Baru now.
"Customers tell me that the taste of my bread is different compared to bakeries using electronic or even gas ovens," he said.
Helped by assistants, including his children and relatives who mix flour, eggs and other ingredients, Salahuddin said he starts baking bread as early as midnight.
At 6am, the first few loaves of freshly baked breads are ready for early bird customers, including those working in nearby offices.
"I know each of my regular customers well as some of them have been visiting since they were children," Salahuddin said.
Some 20 kinds of pastries and breads are offered, such as French loaf and coconut-filled buns.