Mr Khoo Kai Hock, 62, and his wife, Felicia Yip, 58, have been tending to their provision shop at Tiong Bahru Market for almost 40 years. The shop was passed down to Mr Khoo by his father. It has been in operation since the inception of the wet market in the 1950s. Mr Khoo has been helping at the stall since he was 11 years old. He did not want to take over the shop initially and ventured out to become a delivery driver in his early twenties. Eventually, he came back to the provision shop after one year and has been diligently tending to the shop ever since.
Mr Khoo and Felicia have three children who will not be taking over the family provision business. Their children have their own careers and families and sometimes they bring Mr Khoo and Felicia’s grandchildren to the market to visit them. Mr Khoo and Felica completely adore their grandchildren. If they are not working at their provision shop, they are probably spending their free time with them.
The provision shop business is a very tough business to be in, with incredibly small margins. The profit for each canned item hovers around 10-20 cents. Of course, margins for other preserved and dried foodstuff are higher, but this does not take away from the fact that the provision shop business is cut throat. Furthermore, the provision shop business in the wet market is most adversely affected by the rising popularity of supermarkets and online platforms. Unlike with fresh produce where freshness is a price differentiator, canned and bottled foodstuff are similar everywhere. Thus, pricing pressures are very readily felt by the provision shop owners. One respite is the long shelf life of provisions. They can be easily stored for many months, unlike with fresh produce where we must worry about clearing the stock at the end of each day. Despite this, the provision shop business is still one which requires high effort and produces low returns.
Mr Khoo and Felicia do not have any complains as they continue to run their stall day after day. They are not afraid of hard work and are content to be making an honest living. Mr Khoo and Felicia are very amiable and friendly. They have a reputation in the market for being very helpful. Mr Khoo is very mild mannered and I have never personally seen him get angry or upset. Felicia will help neighbouring stallholders when we get overwhelmed by customers. They also keep their provision shop and the surrounding area very clean and tidy. Not an easy task when you consider the large amount and variety of goods that they stock.
If you have any questions about how to cook and how to enhance the fresh produce you have just bought, just ask Mr Khoo and Felicia if you do visit Tiong Bahru Market. They will patiently explain and you may just discover fantastic new recipes. Alternatively, you can purchase their dry produce through us at Marketfresh.com.sg.