Four famous recipes up for sale: Have they found a buyer?

SINGAPORE - After putting up his father's Sin Kee chicken rice recipe for sale in 2014, Mr Niven Leong finally found two buyers who happily forked out $42,800 each to learn the ropes of the chicken rice business.

Although other popular food and beverage joints have changed hands for tidy sums as well, some hawkers - who were hoping for a generous buyout to see them into retirement - have been left disappointed.


Madam Betty Kong and her husband Hai Wai Kay, at their Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint on Upper Paya Lebar Road. Photo: Wanbao

The popular Upper Paya Lebar Road eatery was on the market for two years before it was bought over by the Aztech conglomerate for $4 million, which was $500,000 above the owners' initial asking price.

Roast meats are now prepared in a 45,000 sq ft central kitchen in Senoko.

Under the new owners, Kay Lee opened a fresh outlet in more a upscale setting in 2015 - its first restaurant, in Suntec City - as well as several more outlets, including its first franchise.

As for Kay Lee's original owners, husband-and-wife team Ha Wai Kay and Kong Kuee Chin made the news again in August 2016, albeit for the wrong reasons.

They were each sentenced to four months' jail and fined $164,751.45 for underdeclaring sales while they were running the stall to evade income tax.


Mr Wong Pak Shin and his wife, Madam Tan Li Ying, the owners of Tai Fatt Hou Cuisine, standing outside their stall. Photo: Wanbao

Inspired by Kay Lee's success, the owners of this stewed beef noodles stall in Bukit Merah decided to put their business up for sale in 2012, with an asking price of $200,000.

Mr Anthony Wong Pak Shin, then 65, said that he and his wife Lucy Tan Li Ying wanted to retire and could not convince their children to take over the family trade. Mr Wong had also suffered a heart attack the previous year.

"If there is someone who is really interested and suggests a good business proposal to expand my hawker business, I don't have to take $200,000, I'll sell it to him for $20!" he told the media at the time.

However, all did not end well for the noodle stall.

Last April, a sombre announcement appeared on its Facebook page: "The owners would like to thank all of your support all these years, as they have currently stopped operating the stall..."


Madam Violet Kwan of Lana Cakes, with her famous chocolate cake. Photo: The Straits Times

Baker Violet Kwan, 88, has been selling her beloved chocolate fudge cakes since 1964. But she says the business - located at 36 Greenwood Avenue for the past 41 years- has become too much for her.

Her cakes, which have a generational cult following, are baked in small batches and frosted by hand.

Over the years, Mrs Kwan has fended off numerous offers of franchises and expansion partners because she worries it will affect the quality of the cakes.

But she is looking for takers for her original recipe and store.

Though Mrs Kwan is tight-lipped about the selling price, her daughter Jennifer, 53, believes the shop to be valued at $4 million.

News of Mrs Kwan's impending retirement first broke in February 2016.

Mrs Kwan told The Straits Times last week (Sept 7) that she has received a host of offers since then. But she has not found any suitable matches yet.


Madam Ang Chiew Huat with a bowl of her Cantonese bak kut teh. Photo: The Straits Times

Madam Ang Chiew Huat had to give up her Xiu Jie Claypot Bak Kut Teh hawker stall in 2012, after she suffered a bad fall.

But her offer to sell the recipe for the lighter Cantonese version of the herbal pork rib soup - for which she initially asked the eye-opening amount of $200,000 - still stands.

Madam Ang, 68, now runs a stall in Block 10, Telok Blangah Crescent, selling rojak and fried prawn fritters. She pulls up shutters on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

She told The Straits Times last week (Sept 7) that she is keen on promoting traditional dishes, such as those passed down from her father, which are harder to find nowadays.

She said that she had received some enquiries about buying her bak kut teh recipe, but she was unwilling to seal the deal.

"Some people did ask but they were not hawkers and it seemed like they weren't very knowledgeable about how to run a hawker business," Madam Ang said in Mandarin.

She added: "If we're being honest, $200,000 is not realistic these days. But it must be a fair, reasonable price that leaves everyone satisfied."

This article was first published on September 14, 2016.
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