Slow going for now


Salahuddin attending to customers at the 83-year-old bakery in Jalan Dhoby, Johor Baru.

JOHOR BARU: Shops in the city’s downtown area that have been around for decades are hoping business, which was hit by the slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing movement control order (MCO), will pick up soon.

Sing Keng Wah Kedai Tilam proprietor Yeo Sen Soon said the shop had not received any new orders since reopening under the recovery MCO on June 10.

He said business was down by 75% since the start of the MCO on March 18, and had not improved much since resuming operations.

“We are now finishing the orders taken before the MCO started,’’ said Yeo.

He said despite not generating any income in April and May, he still had to pay the full RM3,000 monthly rental to the landlord.

Yeo said apart from customers from all over Johor, the shop had clients from other parts of the country as well as Australia, Japan and Singapore.

“But our foreign customers are not able to make the trip to Malaysia due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on foreign travellers entering the country,’’ he added.

The 81-year-old business, located along Jalan Trus, has been serving customers who prefer kapok-stuffed mattresses and pillows.

(Kapok is the name used in English-speaking countries for both the tree — ceiba pentandra — and the cotton-like fluff obtained from its pod).

Hua Mui Restaurant proprietor David Chiang said his business dropped by 50% when the MCO started, and by April sales had almost completely stopped.

He said the weekends were normally busy for the 74-year-old outlet located at Jalan Trus as many Singaporeans would come over to have their breakfast and lunch before touring the old parts of the city.

“We started takeaway and deliveries in May as customers were not allowed to dine-in then,’’ said Chiang, who is relieved that business has since picked up slightly.

He said that despite operating hours going back to normal and dine-ins allowed since the start of the recovery MCO, business had still not bounced back to pre-MCO times.

Chiang said pre-Covid 19, the restaurant with 22 tables could accommodate 90 customers at one time but the number was reduced to 30, or one-third of its capacity under the physical distancing measures for eateries.

“However, we have seen some improvement in our business since June,’’ he said.

Apart from the Jalan Trus outlet, Hua Mui also has branches in Taman Sutera Utama, Taman Austin and Ecobotanics.

Salahuddin Bakery proprietor Salahuddin Shamsul hoped the family’s 83-year-old bakery would survive and be around to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

“We started operating again in June after a three-month closure but business is still slow, at about half of pre-Covid days,’’ he said.

Salahuddin said unlike restaurants, the bakery did not have delivery services and depended only on regulars and walk-in customers.

He also expressed concern for the bakery’s future, as many people nowadays spent less on confectionery items.

“I have noticed that people are becoming more prudent when it comes to spending money following the Covid-19 pandemic as they are probably worried about the economy,’’ said Salahuddin.

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