Longhouse says its long goodbye
AFTER 14 years in business, the famous Longhouse food centre served up its last meals yesterday, before rolling down its shutters for good.
In some ways, the long goodbye had begun even before the final day dawned. Seven of the 15 food stalls did not open for business yesterday at the well-known Upper Thomson Road food centre. As if anticipating this, not many customers showed up for a farewell meal.
After sharing the same roof for more than a decade, many stallholders are going their separate ways - six will move to Balestier Market, while five will take up space at a coffee shop near Jalan Besar Stadium.
The rest are calling it a day and closing for good, after Longhouse was sold for $45.2 million to listed developer TEE Land earlier this year.
Amid yesterday's farewells, fond memories were also shared.
Mr Ng Choon Gim, 62, who runs Longhouse, was seen going around taking pictures with the stallholders.
He said: "I'm not sad that the place is gone, but I will miss the people. There's a disruption for the stallholders - they have to face a new frontier. I hope people will make the effort to drive to Jalan Besar and Balestier."
As news of Longhouse's closure spread in the past three months, customers have thronged the food centre, eager for a last taste of its food.
But hawkers were disappointed at the moderate turnout on the last day.
Madam Yong Fong, 64, owner of Bugis Street Chuen Chuen Chicken Rice, said: "I don't know why there are so few people. The last two weekends, there were a lot of people. Maybe it's raining in some places, or maybe they thought it would be too crowded."
Mr Ong Tan Heng, 60, who runs the Soon Kee (Boneless) Lor Duck Rice which is moving to Jalan Besar, added: "I expected more customers, but it's also good if it's not too crowded as some people might get impatient with the waiting."
There was a sense of nostalgia among some stallholders who were losing something so familiar.
Madam Yong, whose chicken rice stall will be relocated at Balestier Market, said: "I'm sad. We've been here for 13 years. I've some elderly customers who live nearby and eat chicken rice on most days - it's impossible for them to travel."
Mr Sam Kee, 32, a supervisor at Longhouse Hawker Delights, which will be relocated near Jalan Besar Stadium, added: "I can't bear to leave this place, but we don't have a choice. I'm friends with the hawkers here, but we are splitting up now."
But others, like Madam Mary Quek, are keen to move on.
The owner of Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle stall, who is in her 30s, said: "We might lose some customers, but we'll also get new ones. In fact, we are very happy about moving to Balestier Market, the rental is cheaper and it has just been renovated. We are also expanding our business to sell fishball noodles and fried kway teow there."
Customers, too, had mixed feelings about their food haunt.
Mrs Florence Chiam, 41, a homemaker, noted that some customers are more familiar with the Upper Thomson area, and parking is easier there.
She said: "It's disappointing that iconic good food places, like this one and the Lavender Food Square, have to make way for other developments."
But project manager Sam Soon, 60, said that most of the stalls are simply moving to another place and it is convenient to travel within Singapore.