Going back to the heartland

PHOTO: Going back to the heartland

Many businesses stay in heartland estates because their shops were set up there decades ago.

But there is a small group of young entrepreneurs who are deliberately choosing an HDB estate for their businesses instead of a glitzy mall.

The advantages of being in the heartland?

Cheaper rents, being closer to their customers and better control over their opening hours.

Ms Pia Chew, who runs a vintage clothing boutique in the heartland of Bukit Purmei, can sell apparel at prices 20 to 30 per cent lower than shops downtown because of the lower overheads, she says.

She chose to locate her nine-year-old business there because of how "unexpected" it is.

"It fits very much into our idea of being quirky and 'every day', since we are located within an HDB estate," explains the 38-year-old.

Unlike stores located in malls, opening and closing hours are entirely at Ms Chew's discretion, much to her delight.

"I have a client who, due to a busy work schedule, can only shop between 10pm and 11pm at night. We can accommodate that as we are not limited to shopping mall opening hours."

The location also impacts the variety offered at the shop.

"As we are independent and not tied to high overheads, there's greater freedom to stock more unique and quirky pieces, and not just items that are crowd-pleasers.

For an authentic vintage shop, this is very key," she explains.

There is an old-school charm about HDB estates, which makes it very appealing, says Mr Dennis Tang,37.

He and his partner, Miss Lee Jia Min, 34, run a coffee joint named Nylon Coffee Roasters, nestled in Everton Park, a HDB estate off Tanjong Pagar.

"We knew we were taking a risk (setting up shop here) as more people are used to the kopitiams, but the residents have been very supportive," he says.

The coffee joint, opened in May last year, serves more than 100 cups of coffee on weekdays, a number which doubles during weekends.

"It's very different from being located within the Central Business District, where people want their coffee now, now, now.

"Here, people have a little more time to linger."

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