Multi-concept store Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones at Orchard Central has closed

Spanning 5,000 sq ft, Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones (above, in a photograph taken in May) had offered a variety of concepts, from food to art-jamming workshops.
Spanning 5,000 sq ft, Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones (above, in a photograph taken in May) had offered a variety of concepts, from food to art-jamming workshops.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Once located in Orchard Central, the retail concept with myriad offerings will reopen elsewhere, but no date has been set

Multi-concept store Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones (SRPS) at Orchard Central shut down earlier this month, just three months after it opened to much fanfare in May.

The ambitious 5,000 sq ft retail concept on the third floor of the mall had different sections. The steamroom refers to the kaffatea room which specialises in Chinese teas; The Pillar was a 80-odd-seat restaurant; and The Stones was a space for retail and activities such as art-jamming and workshops. It also had various other features, including a glass- encased paludarium.

SRPS is owned by The House of Weltanschauung, a company co- founded by local artist Wong Lip Chin, 30. The bachelor, who also designed the space, has been working on SRPS for the past two years.

When contacted, Wong declined comment. But The Straits Times understands that the store has shuttered for good due to a licensing issue and will reopen elsewhere. A new start date has not been set.

A typical lease term for a retail space in a Singapore mall is about three years.

Retail experts interviewed say it is difficult to ascertain what sort of licensing issue could have posed the problem, but a check on business information portals LicenceOne and GuideMeSingapore.com showed that retailers and restaurateurs typically need two to three licences for activities such as importing food ingredients and selling food as well as speciality goods such as cosmetics and liquor.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education from the Singapore Management University, says the sudden closing of the unique retail concept is surprising.

"I can only speculate that some financial arrangement or problem might have arisen, leading to an immediate closure," he says. "Of course, it doesn't help at all that the retail environment has been a little gloomy - you need a lot of financial reserve to be able to pull through these lows in the business cycle.

"Big chains and franchises are better able to smoothen these lows than single store or smaller chain-types of retailers."

When The Straits Times went to the location on Monday, it found that the store's shutters were down and the seating area cordoned off.

Orchard Central, which is owned by Far East Organization, confirms that it is looking for a new tenant.

Meanwhile, those who have visited the store are sad to see it go.

The restaurant, headed by local chef Trevor Paulo and directed by executive chef Stephan Zoisl, who also runs the restaurant Chef's Table By Chef Stephan in Tras Street, is particularly missed.

For Ms Cheryl Lee, 27, the food was the main draw. She is "rather shocked" that SRPS closed so quickly but is "not entirely surprised either", considering that it seemed quiet every time she went.

The employee at a marketing and advertising agency says: "Whether I would visit them again depends on the new location.

"If it is easily accessible, then I definitely will. Otherwise, I wouldn't go out of my way to check it out."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Steamroom shutter surprise'. Print Edition | Subscribe