Eight years ago, 39-year-old Michelle Hardie was burnt out after having worked for more than a decade as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines and as a private banker.
That was when she jumped at an opportunity to take over a spa at a Serangoon Gardens shophouse. "I had no business experience, but I took the plunge."
She said that she was drawn to the laid-back pace of the neighbourhood and decided to use it as the base to expand her business. In 2011, she opened a second spa at another shophouse barely 100m away.
She has a third spa in Bukit Timah, but she spends more time in Serangoon Gardens. "This area is like my second home. The place has a warm, friendly and family feel, and it grew on me," said Ms Hardie, who lives in Upper Bukit Timah.
Rents are rising in the neighbourhood and while she would like to have ground-floor shop space for greater visibility, she had to settle for the second floor for both spas because the cost of ground-floor space is too high for her.
"Only F&B outlets can afford the ground floor, the rent is about double (that of) the second floor," she said.
Ms Hardie supports the Urban Redevelopment Authority's move to preserve the character of the estate.
"Generations of families live here and people know each other. This is what makes the place charming. We don't want it to be like another Orchard Road."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.