Old Petaling Jaya markets struggling to stay relevant


Only one vegetable stall is open at the Section 17 market. — Photos: ART CHEN/The Star

Local markets have long been the go-to places for people to shop for fresh meat, produce and other essential cooking ingredients.

Regulars, comprising mainly housewives and restaurant owners looking to buy groceries at reasonable prices, visit traders whom they have come to know and depend on over the years.

Though this may still be true for some areas in the country, older markets in Petaling Jaya are no longer as bustling as they were in their heyday.

Pasar Besar Jalan Othman, better known as Petaling Jaya Old Town market, and Section 17 market were crowded with customers some five years ago.

Only three stalls are seen to be operating at the Section 17 market when StarMetro visited recently.Only three stalls are seen to be operating at the Section 17 market when StarMetro visited recently.

When StarMetro visited the Section 17 market recently, only three out of more than 20 stalls were in operation.

Vegetable seller Krishnan Govindasamy, who has been running his stall in the Section 17 market for 30 years, said the markets had lost their lustre, especially in the last three years.

He said farmers’ markets and night markets had become more popular by comparison and many customers were opting to shop at those places instead.

In addition, some of the older traders do not have anyone to hand over the reins to upon retirement or their death.

Section 17 market is no longer bustling, with so many empty stalls.Section 17 market is no longer bustling, with so many empty stalls.

“One of the butchers here passed away a few years ago and since then, most of our regular customers have stopped coming here as there has been no replacement.

“Having a pork butcher here will cater to the demand in the community.

“His death along with the closure of a few other shops, leaves us with so few customers now.

“In the last 30 years, the number of customers has dropped by 80%,” said Krishnan.

The lack of parking bays is one of the reasons why there are fewer customers visiting the Section 17 market in Petaling Jaya.The lack of parking bays is one of the reasons why there are fewer customers visiting the Section 17 market in Petaling Jaya.

Josephine Ng, 80, has been shopping at Section 17 market for the last 40 years.

She still visits the only vegetable seller in the market.

“I like coming here because the traders are very friendly.

“Sellers must be properly vetted to ensure that they can provide variety and quantity.

“We cannot have fishmongers or produce vendors who sell too few items, as this is a prime spot,” said Ng.

She added that parking in the area should also be limited to an hour per customer to allow for more visitors.

To understand better the reasons behind the decline in the number of customers and vendors, Taman Medan assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin suggested that Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) carry out a survey on old markets.

He said the occupancy of Petaling Jaya Old Town market traders was about 60% and there had been a drop in customers.

Dr Afif (grey shirt, centre) listening to traders during his visit to Pasar Besar Jalan Othman.Dr Afif (grey shirt, centre) listening to traders during his visit to Pasar Besar Jalan Othman.

The market has 500 stalls in total.

Dr Afif had visited the market in December last year to assess the situation.

He said the parking bays surrounding the market needed to be realigned, loading bays for traders needed to be reviewed and better traffic flow around the market was necessary.

“The market is old and could become a tourism attraction like Central Market in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

“The city council needs to do a market study to understand the nature of businesses here and then charge rental accordingly.

“We also need the younger generation to set up business here so that the place is relevant to the next generation,” he said.

Dr Afif said he learned from traders that in the past, it functioned like a wholesale market and this appealed to customers.

“Many traders have since moved out of the market and started selling in surrounding neighbourhoods instead,” he noted.

“Some traders sell only over the weekend and look for opportunities elsewhere on weekdays because of a lack of customers,” he added.

To attract more customers, Dr Afif suggested that MBPJ review the business policies for markets.

Most stalls on the first floor of Pasar Besar Jalan Othman are closed.Most stalls on the first floor of Pasar Besar Jalan Othman are closed.

He proposed that MBPJ attract home-based traders by waiving rental for six months.

“If home-based businesses are able to sell at the market, it will drive more customers there.

“MBPJ could charge rent after the agreed period,” said Dr Afif.

He also noted that many traders were no longer keen to open a shop on the first floor of the market because there were no water taps.

“This old building was designed for traders to only sell dry goods on the first floor,” he added.

Pasar Besar Jalan Othman Traders Association deputy president Zulkarnain Saahbhari said many people used to come to the market for fresh chicken.

“We hope the authorities will allow us to slaughter chicken in the market again.

“People want fresh goods and variety.

“The city council could work on the details by discussing what we require,” he said.

He highlighted that traders also had security concerns, as some stored meat and fish were stolen.

Zulkarnain hopes that the authorities are able to understand some of the challenges faced by traders at the market.

Storage space for coconuts in Pasar Besar Jalan Othman is far away, making it hard for the traders to get the goods to their stalls.Storage space for coconuts in Pasar Besar Jalan Othman is far away, making it hard for the traders to get the goods to their stalls.

Storage space is another concern that he wants addressed.

He said storage space for coconuts was located far away from the stalls, making it difficult for sellers to cart the stock to their stalls.

A trader, who wanted to be known only as Rani, said she was frustrated as business at Pasar Besar Jalan Othman had been badly affected over the years.

She said that based on the agreement with MBPJ, stalls on the market’s ground floor were only to sell vegetables, fish or meat while the shops on the first floor could sell dry items such as onions, garlic, fruits, anchovies and curry powder.

However, Rani claimed that stalls on the ground floor were also selling dry goods, especially onions and garlic, deterring people from venturing to the first floor.

The first floor of Pasar Besar Jalan Othman does not have running water.The first floor of Pasar Besar Jalan Othman does not have running water.

“This market has no lifts and customers have to use the stairs.

“They do not want to walk up because the shops on the ground floor sell the products they need.

“We also want the authorities to go after the shops operating without a licence around the market area,” she said.

Pasar Besar Jalan Othman does not have a lift, so some customers do not visit the upper floor.Pasar Besar Jalan Othman does not have a lift, so some customers do not visit the upper floor.

She claimed that foreigners were managing unlicensed businesses close to the market.

“We locals face a lot of challenges because of their illegal businesses.

“I made RM42 in sales this afternoon and one large bag of onions already costs me RM42.

“It will take me a long time to make enough profit for that bag of onions if sales continue to be this slow.

“We need more customers and better management of the market,” said Rani.

At press time, MBPJ did not respond to StarMetro’s query on issues related to these old markets.

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