Small S'pore shop selling sewing materials counts big brand names among clients

(From left) Mr Adrian Ng Chuan Aun with his uncle, Mr Ng Cheow Kok, his father, Mr Ng Cheow Poh, and his brother, Mr Kenny Ng Kian Aun, outside Sin Hin Chuan Kee.
(From left) Mr Adrian Ng Chuan Aun with his uncle, Mr Ng Cheow Kok, his father, Mr Ng Cheow Poh, and his brother, Mr Kenny Ng Kian Aun, outside Sin Hin Chuan Kee.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Sin Hin Chuan Kee, a family-run shop that sells sewing materials, has been around for nearly half a century and today supplies ribbons to big brand names like Tatler, HBO and Mastercard.

Now run by the third-generation descendants of founder Ng Koon Teng, it stocks over 8,000 products, and boasts loyal clients and families who have patronised the shop for generations.

When The Straits Times visited the shop in North Bridge Road on Thursday (April 22), eight members of the family were bustling about the shop, enthusiastically sharing their experiences with visitors.

The youngest was the founder's grandson Kenny Ng, 42. The oldest was Mr Ng Cheow Kok, 78, the founder's eldest son.

On Thursday, the National Heritage Board unveiled a "mini-museum" in front of the haberdashery, a glass cabinet containing several items that tell the shop's story, as part of its efforts to create unexpected heritage encounters for those in the area.

Among the objects on display are the Japanese brand of YKK zippers, of which Sin Hin Chuan Kee is the sole distributor in Singapore, and the Flying Wheel sewing thread from China it is known for.

Both had been sourced by Mr Ng Koon Teng on his trips around Asia in the 60s and 70s.

Mr Kenny Ng said: "We might not produce your clothes directly but we likely have a hand in what you wear. The elastic bands of your mask might be from us. There is a 70 per cent chance that your clothes have YKK zips. Buttons, lanyards, that's what we do."

He added: "Don't ask me how we keep track of our stock. We have so many buttons alone and we have the widest range of ribbons for packaging. We tell those who come here looking for items that even if we don't have what you are looking for, give us two weeks and we will find it for you."

Customers browsing for materials at tailoring supplies shop Sin Hin Chuan Kee. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Sin Hin Chuan Kee moved to Kampong Glam after Clyde Street, where its first shop was located, underwent redevelopment in the 1970s. Mr Ng Koon Teng was an immigrant from Quanzhou, China, and saw his business boom in part due to the import and export opportunities that Singapore enjoyed as a trading hub. He died in 2005, aged 79.

Since the 2000s, the younger owners have established an online storefront. Where previously deliveries were done on bicycles, today they are done with Grab cars.

Mr Kenny Ng said: "We have had to change, but we continue to sell what we call 10-cent items, small things that don't give us much of a profit, because they are important to customers. My aunts can tell you how grandmothers would bring their daughters and granddaughters to the shop together. We have grown together with our customers."