SINGAPORE - For the next two weeks, Mr Jimmy Ng, 50, will be busy renovating, cleaning and stocking up his new drinks stall at Marsiling Mall, which expects to receive its first customers on Dec 15.
He was a young boy when he started helping his mother at their stall at Old Woodlands Town Centre. But after 37 years, it was time to move.
"I am sad to leave the stall where I grew up helping my mother, but this is a new beginning," Mr Ng told The Straits Times on Thursday (Nov 30). He moved to the new stall at Marsiling Mall, next to the Woodlands Sports Hall, earlier this month.
Mr Chua Lay Sing, chairman of the Woodlands' Merchant Association, said 80 per cent of the 68 stalls from Old Woodlands Town Centre will start operations at Marsiling Mall on Dec 15. The last of the stall holders vacated their old premises on Thursday (Nov 30) to make room for the extension of the Woodlands Checkpoint.
The coming two weeks will give them time to do up their new stalls, which are double the size of their old ones.
"It is pointless to open a few stalls at a time. It is better for business if we have a big opening," Mr Chua said in Mandarin.
Mr Koh Boon Tong, who sells nasi lemak, plans to open for business by Dec 19. He expects renovations to be completed by Dec 11, but is not sure that he can open by Dec 15.
"I will want to start as soon as possible," he said in Mandarin. "But I have to do some additional works such as shelving, piping and lighting so a delay may be inevitable."
When The Straits Times visited the hawker centre at Marsiling Mall on Thursday, renovation work was still going on, with dust covering the floors, seats and tabletops.
The National Environment Agency (NEA), which manages hawker centres and markets, said on its Facebook page on Nov 14 that the hawker centre will have 70 cooked food stalls and more than 1,000 seats. It will also have an automated tray return system for patrons so that cleaners can focus on keeping the place clean, NEA added.
The opening of the hawker centre is expected to ease the congestion at Block 20, Marsiling Lane.
Mr Tan Foo Ming, 28, secretary of the 18 to 21 Marsiling Hawkers' Association, said that footfall has increased 30 per cent to 40 per cent over the past month as the stalls closed at the Old Woodlands Town Centre.
Workers coming in through the Causeway, especially motorists, have flocked to the hawker centre in Marsiling Lane where Mr Tan runs a noodle stall with his family.
"We welcome the additional business, but the lack of parking spaces for motorcyclists has been a big problem," he said, adding that customers who parked illegally often rush off before finishing their food in case they get a summons.
Admiralty resident Toh Seng Hong, 22, looks forward to the new hawker centre because he misses the seafood soup at Old Woodlands Town Centre.
He and a friend were at Marsiling Mall on Thursday but the stall was not yet open.
Mr Toh, an undergraduate at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said: "It's good to know that the hawker centre will be open soon."