Market and food centre bustling again after blaze

Stallholders at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market and food centre (left) who stuck it out through their ordeal, believe there is reason to be optimistic. Business returned, even at a temporary location, and when the new building was completed, it was m
Stallholders at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market and food centre who stuck it out through their ordeal, believe there is reason to be optimistic. Business returned, even at a temporary location, and when the new building was completed, it was more spacious.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Ang Mo Kio Block 628 stallholders had feared financial ruin after fire destroyed the place nine years ago

It was all over the news.

A blaze tore through a market and food centre, destroying it beyond salvation.

Stallholders lost their livelihoods and the required demolition of the block clouded their outlook with further uncertainty.

A temporary market emerged as an option to tide them over.

But this was not the recent blaze in Jurong West Street 41.

In fact, this was what happened nine years ago to 232 stalls at the Block 628 market and food centre in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4.

Many stallholders had been operating at the centre since it opened in 1980. Four months after the fire, a temporary market and food centre was set up behind Yio Chu Kang Community Club.

After two years, the market was rebuilt at a cost of $9.35 million.

Fast forward nine years.

A blaze engulfs a wet market and two coffeeshops at blocks 493 and 494 in Jurong West Street 41 on Oct 11, leaving 51 stallholders without their business.

Block 493 is currently undergoing demolition works, and will take over a year to be rebuilt. A temporary market will be set up at the basketball court in front of Block 498, before Chinese New Year.

When interviewed, stallholders at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market and food centre who stuck it out through the ordeal believe there is reason to be optimistic.

They said business returned upon their return to the original location in 2010, and their fear of regular customers going elsewhere was unfounded.

Said vegetable seller Ngan Fook Thim, 59: "Back then, I was hesitant about moving to the temporary market, but I figured I didn't have a choice. If I didn't do business, then what would I do for two years?"

But regular customers continued supporting his business, even when it was at the temporary market.

The block's new design turned out to be more spacious.

A fishmonger, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, 67, said the building is now higher and wider, with fewer narrow spots, making it easier for people to get around.

Chicken rice seller Peter Chong, 48, said: "It is cooler and more spacious, so customers are more likely to sit and eat here."

Things might have looked bleak for the stallholders at first, but, as Mr Sia Eng Kuang, 60, a meat and poultry seller, put it: "We had no choice but to pick ourselves up and restart from scratch."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Market and food centre bustling again after blaze'. Print Edition | Subscribe