Eldercare shop owner likes sense of familiarity in estate

Mr Ronnie Loh, owner of Rehab King which sells eldercare products such as wheelchairs and diapers in Bukit Merah, says he finds meaning in helping his customers, most of whom are seniors or caregivers.
Mr Ronnie Loh, owner of Rehab King which sells eldercare products such as wheelchairs and diapers in Bukit Merah, says he finds meaning in helping his customers, most of whom are seniors or caregivers.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Shop owner Ronnie Loh's business journey has been more colourful than most, given that it has taken him from being a big wheel in the music industry to selling wheelchairs to seniors in the heartland.

Mr Loh used to work for leading lights in the music industry like Warner Music. From the 1960s to the 1980s, he also ran his own businesses distributing and selling music.

But just when prospects in the industry began to fade, Mr Loh stumbled upon an opportunity in the healthcare line. Fifteen years ago, he set up Rehab King in the bustling heartland of Bukit Merah to sell eldercare products such as wheelchairs and diapers.

Mr Loh, who is in his early 70s, initially thought it would be a "pretty boring" undertaking, "but I now look forward to coming to work every day".

One of the main draws of setting up shop in the heartland is the sense of familiarity that comes from seeing regular customers and fellow shopkeepers from the neighbourhood, he noted.

He also finds meaning in helping his customers, most of whom are seniors or caregivers: "My mantra is, honesty is the best policy."

That is what draws regular customer Ian Peterson, 47. "Ronnie gives good advice on products, and I also find his rates for items like diapers cheaper than those of supermarkets," said the social service professional.

Rehab King also receives donated wheelchairs that are available to customers on a "pay as you wish" basis, with proceeds going to charity.

Mr Loh welcomed the move by the Housing Board and other agencies to conduct a study on heartland shops, which will, among other things, look at the benefits that residents enjoy from patronising such stores.

HDB shops offer more affordable rents than malls, he said. There are even economies of scale to be reaped when customers ask for items to be delivered together with purchases from neighbouring shops.

"One of my elderly customers will order things from me for delivery. Sometimes, she will also buy items from the household goods store next door, and say, can I tumpang (Malay for piggyback) (my goods) with the delivered items? It's convenient for her," he said with a laugh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2021, with the headline 'Eldercare shop owner likes sense of familiarity in estate'. Subscribe