Bakeries’ business drops by half

Lim preparing the coal-fired oven at Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

BUSINESS at the two remaining old-fashioned bakeries in the older part of Johor Baru city has plummeted because of the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order.

Century-old Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory’s famous banana cakes, which are baked in a coal-fired oven, are popular with the locals and Singaporeans.

Usually, there is a long queue by 11am daily for the cakes at the bakery located in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

“But not these days, the line only lasts for about five minutes, ” said Lim Toh Shin, 41, who manages the outlet’s operations.

He lamented that sales had dropped by 50% since the start of the MCO in March last year, but the business was being sustained by domestic demand.

He said that prior to the MCO, weekends were a busy period as the shop was one of the favourite stops for Singaporeans visiting Johor Baru.

Nisa says unlike restaurants, the bakery does not have delivery services as it  is not cost  competitive.Nisa says unlike restaurants, the bakery does not have delivery services as it is not cost competitive.

“Singaporeans make up more than half of our customers, but they cannot come here as the border between Malaysia and Singapore is still closed, ” he said.

Lim said the bakery had since September last year started to deliver banana cakes to Singapore three times a week to cater to demand from customers there.

He said the delivery service would be extended to the Klang Valley, in mid-February or March, as there was demand.

He hoped the current MCO in Johor from Jan 13 to 26 would not be extended as businesses, including the bakery, would suffer further.

Nisa Salahuddin of Salahuddin Bakery said although the bakery started operating in June after a three-month closure, business was still slow and had dropped by 50% compared to before the pandemic.

“Normally, customers start to come in when we open at 9am, but these days, the shop is very quiet, ’’ she said.

The 30-year-old daughter of bakery proprietor Salahuddin Shamsul, said most of the bakery’s customers were regulars and workers from offices in downtown Johor Baru.

Unlike restaurants, she said, the bakery did not have delivery services as it was not cost competitive.

Instead, it depended on regulars and walk-in customers.

Nisa said the bakery was also popular with Singaporeans for its coal-fired, oven-baked triangular curry puffs, known as Karipap Bengali, as well as French loaves.

The 84-year-old bakery in Jalan Dhoby was established by Nisa’s great-grandfather Shariff Mohamed Mahku, who came from New Delhi in 1937.

Her grandfather Shamsul Haq took over in 1953, hence it was known as Kedai Roti Shamsul Haq then. The name was changed to Salahuddin Bakery when her father took over in 2002.

“We hope the family’s bakery will survive to celebrate its 100th anniversary, ’’ said Nisa.

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