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'Women wearing heels won't climb the stairs'

PRIVATELY-RUN: Kampung@Simpang Bedok. ST FILE PHOTO

As they climbed the stairs to the hawker centre, her mother turned and told Madam Fion Phua: "Girl, the food here better be worth the climb!"

The matriarch, in her 70s, was panting by the time she reached Kampung@Simpang Bedok.

Singapore's first privately-run hawker centre was hard to reach, tucked away on the second storey, with no lifts or escalators.

"Accessibility was a problem," said Madam Phua, a club membership broker.

"The lack of lifts put off the elderly, mothers with prams and those in wheelchairs.

"Women wearing high heels were also not keen to climb the stairs."

She had a charity flea market at Kampung@Simpang Bedok. The money raised from the second-hand items was used to top up needy children's ez-link cards. The clientele came from the surrounding homes and factories and were a mix of residents, domestic workers and construction workers.

KAMPUNG SPIRIT

"The place had a nice kampung atmosphere, with live bands performing during the weekends," Madam Phua, 44, recalled. "Where else can you dine, listen to music and dance?"

But the management pulled the plug last October, after she had operated less than two months and they gave her two days' notice to vacate the premises.

"It folded in such a sudden manner," she said. "It was too fast. Even the people working there had no idea and suddenly, they were out of a job."

In hindsight, having a committed team of qualified people to organise more activities might have helped, she said.