An awakening for Sims Drive?

Three F&B outlets in the quiet enclave look forward to many more people settling in soon and drumming up business for them.

Published Thu, Nov 27, 2014 · 09:50 PM
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SLEEPY Sims Drive is in the middle of nowhere - just behind Aljunied, but not quite part of Geylang. Surrounded by a number of en bloc HDB buildings, and under-construction office buildings, the area feels like a rare ghost town in an otherwise overcrowded Singapore.

So when the owners of Guru Nice Bakery - Liow Hwee Khiong and his wife Tan May Lay - first thought of moving their store from Tampines to Sims Drive, well-meaning friends told them it was professional suicide.

Recalls Ms Tan, 42: "This estate has been deserted for many years. People said my business will surely die if I come here. They said to me, 'Why come here when there's no crowd, no residents, no anything? Nobody is going to buy from you'."

Lots of potential

She begs to differ, maintaining that it was a good business decision because Tampines already has many bakeries, whereas their six-month-old outlet on Sims Drive is the only one in the vicinity.

She adds: "We can see there is a lot of potential around here, with the upcoming housing and industrial buildings. Plus, it was only after we moved here that we found out about the condominium and the university - that was a nice surprise!"

The condominium she refers to is a new development by GuocoLand, which just recently began construction and will have around 900 units once it is completed in about four years.

The university is the upcoming James Cook University (JCU) Singapore campus that has taken over the former site of Manjusri Secondary School. After its completion early next year, it intends to expand its enrolment to about 7,500 students.

Until then, however, their bakery will just have to wait it out and survive through its online business and corporate bulk orders, says Ms Tan.

Joining them in the wait is a modern vegetarian cafe The REAL Hut, which was set up by sisters Teresa and Evon Liow in April this year. This cafe marks their first venture into the food-and-beverage industry, after having built a 10-year-old Modern Montessori franchise which they intend to continue running on the side.

For now, their 25-seater restaurant barely breaks even by serving the office lunch crowd and families at dinnertime and on weekends, but Teresa, 45, hopes things will improve next year.

Younger customers

She says: "Right now we are trying to create a new menu to cater to the younger customers we expect to see from the university. We intend to come up with more varieties of food . . . and something that's more affordable for students."

Not all business owners in the area are waiting with bated breath, though, as owners of the year-old Backstage Cafe preferred the out-of- the-way location for the cheaper rent. After all, cafes have become a form of destination dining here in Singapore, so there's no need to rely on proximity for a steady stream of customers.

Says 23-year-old Fabian Koh, who handles events and marketing for the cafe: "We did not open here particularly because we knew about the potential of the area, since location doesn't really matter so much these days. But, of course, we're open to more teenagers coming - we're looking forward to that and the condo in the long run."

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