The Traditional Mama Shop

The Mama Shop Singapore

A mama shop is a typical supply shop that sells sundry products, canned goods, sweets and newspapers. Mama shops are primarily owned and run by Indian immigrants, although it is not uncommon to see proprietors from a variety of backgrounds. A simple mama shop, for example, maybe a kiosk that takes up the shophouse five-foot-way wall space. Many Singaporeans have relocated into shophouses or units at void decks beneath HDB flats.

According to the Singapore Provision Shop Friendly Association, there were roughly 3000 conventional provision shops in Singapore at their peak during the 1980s. There are currently less than 200 shops, despite the fact that non-members who own businesses have not registered. Many are mama shops, business owners.

Mama’ Shop owner, Little India, Singapore. Image Source (Flickr)
The “Mama Shops”. Image Source (Under The Angsana Tree)

A trip to the mama shop generally meant a present for the kids. Sweets and ice were popular during this period, as many homes did not have a refrigerator. Another interesting feature was the shop owner’s practice of offering buy-on-credit to their loyal consumers or inhabitants who lived above their store.

The decrease in the supply and mama shop trade has been affected by a number of factors. Because the majority of them are little family firms, their operation has been hampered by a low take-up rate among the younger generation. This is why many current mama shop owners are in their sixties or older.

The retail environment is changing for most businesses, especially mama shops. Supermarkets and contemporary minimarts are competing fiercely. In addition to this, they have a larger product selection and the ability to provide memberships and discounts in air-conditioned settings. Lim Tian Han, a veteran provision shop owner who echoed this, ran the 54-year-old Tian Kee at Dakota Crescent for 85 years. After closing his store, he said competition from a new supermarket down the street was one of the reasons for its failure.

Tian Kee & Co. @ 12 Dakota Crescent. Image Source (Such A Fatty)
Vanishing Trades of Singapore. Image Source (Behance)

A few mama shop businesses have succeeded in establishing themselves in the market by offering a distinct goods line. An example is the Mama Store, which is located at the crossroads of Upper Dickson Road and Serangoon Road in Farrer Park. According to the owner, M. Govindsasmy, this mother shop has been in operation for more than 36 years. Arun Kumar specialises in selling over 300 varieties of publications and novels in five languages: English, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu. Most of his consumers are foreign labourers who visit Little India on weekends and holidays.

The “Mama Shops”. Image Source (Under The Angsana Tree)

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