Good Good Eating House
The oldest housing estate in Commonwealth Drive, which was built in the 1960s, now resembles a ghost town as former residents have moved out and into replacement flats after Blocks 74 to 80 were designated for the Selective En Bloc Replacement Scheme in 2008.
The Chup Laus was built by the Housing & Development Board between 1960 and 1967, and they were formerly known as the Chup Laus, a popular name for ten-story flats in Singapore’s older housing estates. When I arrived at the Chup Laus, I was still admiring the outside appearances. An aunt met me as I entered.
Chin Hin Eating House, a coffee shop founded in 1976, was where I had just set foot. Chin Hin is a modest family company that has served local residents for 38 years at the ground level of Block 75.
Despite the heat, I grabbed a kopi to celebrate my birthday with everyone else. What made this coffee shop unique was that customers kept coming back for their drinks after they had gone.
There’s no question that the Chin Hin Eating House is a tradition. The antique marble-topped tables with hardwood legs have aged gracefully, and they’re set up next to red plastic chairs that go with the crimson rectangular floor tiles. This is what gives it its distinctiveness. The gentle sound of a ceiling fan and traditional Chinese music from Love 97.2 radio station add to the ambience.
The Wanton Noodle Aunt on my right was whistling to the radio as she cleaned up her stall. She has decided to close her business for the day at 2 p.m. Food stalls are typically found in front of old coffee shops, rather than behind them.
Props like the traditional Good Morning Towel, which may be seen in new-age nostalgia stores, would be on display here. The most significant distinction is that these items are not decorations in this case. They’re utilized, re-used, cleaned, and hung from a string behind the counter.
It’s a shame to see our coffee shop institutions crumble as new construction takes their place and every other coffee shop with dime-a-dozen espresso machines. The original coffee shop is a well-known landmark. It’s a social hangout for residents, a meeting spot for pals, and a pick-me-up for taxi drivers who spend their evenings on the road. It’s where ordinary tales are ready to be shared.
The Chin Hee Coffee Shop in Penang, Malaysia, will shut its doors for the final time on February 28, 2014.