A new-wave barbershop, a ukulele shop and a modern juice bar might fit right in at hipster central Haji Lane, but tucked along a road littered with Indian restaurants, these stores certainly stand out.
In the past year, The Golden Rule Barber Co, Ukulele Movement and Eat Ripe Products have set up shop in Race Course Road. Together with Cafe Salivation, which serves Western vegetarian food, and cooking studio-cum-cafe The Food Dot, they make up a small handful of places in the area that are not offering Indian cuisine.
Just a stone's throw away from Race Course Road, there are also a few non- Indian F&B outlets at One Farrer Hotel & Spa, which opened last September.
Race Course Road, situated on the edge of Little India, has a sports history that dates back to the 1840s when the open field facing the road was home to the first racecourse built. It was also where the first airplane landed in Singapore in the early 1900s.
Little India's rich past and the rustic charm of the shophouses scattered throughout the historic district are what attracted the founders of Ukulele Movement, married couple Glyn Chan and Simon Mok, to set up shop in Race Course Road.
"It has much more charm and definitely more character than a mall or the usual shopping areas. A ukulele store will fit better in such a distinctive location versus Orchard Road, where a guitar store would be more commonplace," says Ms Chan, 40.
The business started in 2009 as a ukulele store and school in the couple's apartment in Beatty Road, and they subsequently rented shop spaces in Dunlop Street, Little India, and at lifestyle hub Ture Kallang.
When the leases at these locations expired, they came up with a new concept for their business and moved to Race Course Road.
Opened last November, Ukulele Movement is now a retail store, school and cafe housed in a 2,500 sq ft two-storey shophouse that has an alfresco deck.
"Some customers have said they wish we could have more gatherings, so we looked for a space for an all-in-one concept store to house retail, school, and cafe under one roof," says Ms Chan.
Lower rent, the central location and ample parking space nearby were other key considerations that sealed the deal for the couple.
For The Golden Rule Barber Co owner Aryan Siswanto Kamsani, Race Course Road was the ideal spot away from hip enclaves such as Tiong Bahru.
"We were looking for somewhere that was far from any hip area so we can stand out," he says.
Despite the unlikely location for a new-age barbershop, business has been surprisingly good, growing by about 40 per cent since its opening last May, says Mr Aryan, 31. Its customers are mainly working adults and tertiary students.
And those who are hungry for more diverse fare now have another choice with juice bar-cum-cafe Eat Ripe Products. Co-owner Darren Chai, 30, grabbed the opportunity to offer a new food-and-beverage concept there when the 900 sq ft space was put up for rent last year.
"We have always wanted to set up a shop here. Race Course Road is home to some of the famous Indian restaurants in Singapore and we wished to complement what is already available," he says.
Serving cold-pressed juices, waffles and savoury wraps, the outlet opened last April. "Race Course Road has so much potential to become the next hip spot in Singapore. With the smell of aromatic curry spices and the hypnotic rhythms of Bollywood songs playing in the background, this is an environment that is not found elsewhere," says Mr Chai.
Mr Aryan has noticed more youngsters patronising the area, besides the usual groups of families and tourists who dine at the Indian restaurants.
Long-time tenant Muthu's Curry welcomes the new establishments. Marketing director Veshali Visvanaath says: "They might attract a younger crowd. However, there will always be customers coming to Race Course Road for Indian food."
Ms Jamie Low, 26, an administrative officer who lives in Little India, is glad that there are now more dining options there but she does not want Race Course Road to turn into another hipster enclave.
She says: "Little India has a rich heritage. The area may lose its charm if too many non-Indian establishments were to open shop here."
THE GOLDEN RULE BARBER CO
What: The classic Western barbershop interior has three guitars hanging on the wall. There is a PlayStation 3 for customers to play. This is a men’s playden where patrons can hang out and get services including haircuts, shaves and beard sculpting.
Where: 01-02 Roberts Lane, 188 Race Course Road
Open: 11am to 10pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 9pm (Saturday), 11am to 5pm (Sunday)
EAT RIPE PRODUCTS (E.R.P)
What: With an E.R.P. signboard similar in design to the Electronic Road Pricing gantries, this juice bar-cum- cafe attracts curious stares from passers-by. But it has nothing to do with the transport system. It sells drinks, including cold-pressed juices and smoothies as well as homemade popsicles and savoury wraps.
Where: 50 Race Course Road
Open: 1 to 10pm (Tuesday to Friday), 10am till late on weekend, closed on Monday
Info: Call 9743-6927 or go to eatripeproducts.com
What: Check out the 200 ukulele models, sign up for a class to learn how to play it or simply chill with ukulele enthusiasts over a cup of joe at the cafe. The new outlet in Race Course Road was set up to be a communal place for patrons to jam or hang out at. There are plans to hold quarterly open-mic sessions too.
Where: 178 Race Course Road
Open: 11am to 8pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday
Info: Call 6299-0580 or go to ukulelemovement.com
FOOD STREET AT ONE FARRER HOTEL & SPA
What: With 24-hour restaurant and lounge Escape and casual deli-style eatery Local, Fresh & Seasonal housed inside the five-star hotel, patrons have their pick from sandwiches to an international buffet spread. For healthy cooking tips, they can attend culinary demonstrations at the Institute of Nutrition or learn cooking at Origins Of Food.
Where: 1 Farrer Park Station Road
Open: Escape is open all day; Local, Fresh & Seasonal is open from 7am to 10pm (Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and public holiday); Origins Of Food is open from 10am to 10pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday and public holiday
Info: Call 6705-7831 or go to www.onefarrer.com