Provision shop uncle: 'It's time to move on'
After almost seven decades of running a neighbourhood provision shop, Mr Wong Ah Chai is finally calling it a day.
Tomorrow, the 80-year-old will close the shutters on Lian Seng Dept Store & Provision Shop at Block 678, Hougang Avenue 8, ending the three-generation family business for good.
The shop, the size of a four-room HDB flat, will make way for a tuition centre.
"I'm tired. I've been doing this for 69 years, and it's hard work. If you were to work here, you would give up and leave after just three days," said Mr Wong, wagging his finger.
He declined to say how much he sold the shop for.
Lian Seng's roots can be traced back to Pulau Tekong, where Mr Wong was born.
At 11, he began at his grandfather's provision shop, which served 5,000 islanders. It also sold fish - some caught by Mr Wong, who loved to fish.
After his marriage at 22, he took over the running of the store with his wife and their three sons.
In 1987, the Wongs moved,following plans to turn Pulau Tekong into a military base. Given a relocation fee, they moved to a flat near the shop they were allocated in Hougang.
Lian Seng was a hit, but when supermarket giants started coming up, business dwindled.
"People came only to buy items they needed urgently. They buy everything else from supermarkets," said eldest son Wong Woo Ling, 56.
The rise of online grocers was another blow.
When The New Paper visited on Wednesday, the shop was half-empty - Mr Wong had been clearing stock.
"People tell me it's a pity, but the business has run its course. It's time to move on," he said.
A regular customer, Ms Sim Hui Hwang, said: "What makes them stand out from the retail giants is their warm and friendly service."
Retirement means Mr Wong can now go back to his childhood love. "I've arranged to take a boat out next week to go fishing," he said with a smile.