Newton Food Centre reopens with a posher vibe

The refurbished Newton Food Centre has spacious aisles, several basins for customers to wash their hands, energy-efficient LED lighting indoors, and new toilets, tables and chairs.
The refurbished Newton Food Centre has spacious aisles, several basins for customers to wash their hands, energy-efficient LED lighting indoors, and new toilets, tables and chairs.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Most stalls have returned after 3-month closure, hawkers happy with the many improvements

After three months of upgrading works, Newton Food Centre has reopened with a slightly posher look and occasionally higher prices.

The hawker centre, which returned to business last week, now boasts more spacious aisles as well as new toilets, tables and chairs.

It also has energy-efficient LED lighting indoors and several basins for customers to wash their hands.

Most stall owners, however, remain unchanged. Some wondered, though, if their rents would remain the same.

A few hawkers have already raised their prices.

Well-known Bee Heng Popiah stall now sells its popiah for $2.20, up from $2 previously.

The XO Minced Meat Noodle stall also raised prices by $0.50 for each bowl of noodles.

But Bee Heng Popiah has still been receiving a good response, said Mr Gary Tan, 53, who runs the stall. He said it sold out its popiah by 8pm on Monday, which is unusual.

"Our regulars missed us, so they came back," he said.

Vendors said they are happy with the refurbishment.

"Now, there are basins to wash hands. Toilets are also cleaner, there are more fans, and it is more open and brighter," said Mr Eric Tan, 58, a shop assistant at Thai food stall Bangkok Express.

When The Straits Times visited the food centre at lunchtime on Tuesday, there were about 30 stalls open and a sizeable crowd from offices nearby.

Some hawkers, however, lamented that the usual crowd has not returned.

"Only those who live and work nearby know that we have opened already.

"Most people don't know," said Mr Henry Quek, 58, who has run the Tanglin Oyster Omelette stall at the centre for about 15 years.

Ms Shannon Hon, 27, who has been to the food centre every day since last Wednesday, said she goes there as it is the nearest option to her office on Winstedt Road.

"I like the kway chap and Hokkien mee. It is also easier to find seats here during lunchtime because it is big," said the meetings and events executive.

When The Straits Times visited the centre on Tuesday evening, 58 stalls were open. Touting, a long-time bugbear at the hawker centre, seemed less of a problem.

Salesman Max Chong, 41, a regular at the hawker centre, said the physical changes are not obvious and that he was not bothered by the touting tactics.

"The touts are not aggressive. All they do is place a menu on your table," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Newton Food Centre reopens with a posher vibe'. Print Edition | Subscribe