Kim San Leng coffee shop boss dies aged 72 after two-week bout of fever

PHOTO: Facebook/Kim San Leng F&B

Kim San Leng coffee shop owner Hoon Thing Leong died on Thursday (April 29), after undergoing several surgeries in recent months.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, Hoon died at the Singapore General Hospital following a bout of fever that lasted two weeks.

Known as the "coffee shop king", Hoon set up the well-known chain of Kim San Leng coffee shops spanning more than 30 branches around Singapore.

His son, Hong Qiqiang, shared with Wanbao that his father had suffered from poor health in recent months and had been in and out of the hospital. Hoon had undergone a heart operation four months ago and a brain procedure two months later.

Hoon was admitted to the hospital, most recently, two weeks ago due to a persistent fever – but tests were unable to uncover the cause. Hong added that just the day before his dad passed, doctors had performed a standard procedure to obtain some tissue from the liver. However, his condition began to deteriorate later that evening.

Hoon had to go under the knife once again to stem the bleeding in his liver. In the wee hours of the morning, his family were informed that Hoon may not pull through.

His son shared that Hoon's heart had stopped beating several times, which affected his heart and brain function. He also had to go through dialysis for his failing kidneys. Hoon died after an eight-hour emergency operation to save his life.

Sharing that the family hadn't realised how serious his condition was, Hong could only state that "it was very sudden". Because of the complications that arose, the family is still awaiting confirmation from the hospital on the cause of death.

Hoon (right) and his son, Hong Qiqiang. PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao file

Hoon's body is currently residing at the Singapore Funeral Parlour, and the funeral will take place on Wednesday (May 5). He leaves behind his wife, three sons and two daughters.

A post on Kim San Leng's Facebook account paid tribute to its late founder on April 30. It read:

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Mr Hoon Thing Leong.

"For those who have met Mr Hoon, his tenacity for life and continuous strive for self-improvement is second to none. He founded Kim San Leng in the 1960s, and built the chain from one coffeeshop in Hougang to more than 30 outlets around Singapore today.

"Mr Hoon was also constantly on the lookout to help other businesses and established The Bosses Network in 1995 which has grown into a thriving community. Not forgetting his love for martial arts which got him involved as an active committee member of the Wushu Association for the past 13 years. His legacy will live on at Kim San Leng and in all our hearts. He will be greatly missed.

"Thank you for all your calls, messages and support during this difficult time for his family and all of us at Kim San Leng."

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Mr Hoon Thing Leong. For those who have met Mr Hoon, his...

Posted by Kim San Leng F&B on Friday, April 30, 2021

Astute businessman

The eldest of six children, Hoon came to Singapore from Fuzhou, China with his mother when he was five years old to join his father here.

Hoon senior had come to Singapore earlier and saved enough by the 1950s to open his first coffeeshop, Kim San Eating House, in Hougang.

Hoon joined his father's business as a coffee runner in his teens, working his way up from the bottom. He recalled waking up at 5am and cleaning spittoons and scrubbing toilets.

Interviews which he gave to the media painted the picture of a hard worker who wasn't content with being a regular "kopi kia".

"I told myself I would succeed," he said in response to customers who mocked him.

Hoon at the Bishan coffeeshop he bought for $3.52 million. PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

Hoon started his first coffeeshop at 23, with his own savings and some money borrowed from his father. 

In 1990, Hoon bought over a coffeeshop space in Bishan for a princely sum of $3.52 million and named it Kim San Leng in honour of his father. He said simply in an interview, "I saw potential", but it was made with "knowledge, awareness, understanding, analysis, evaluation and conclusion."

In another interview, Hoon added: "Everyone thought I was a lunatic to fork out that exorbitant sum. Today, the profits from this coffee shop has since reaped 10-fold its investment."

The business steadily grew after that, expanding to well-over 30 outlets, and is currently helmed by Hoon's children.

candicecai@asiaone.com