Brisk business returns to JB

Popular favourite: Customers at the 101-year-old Hiap Joo Bakery in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Baru, maintaining social distancing while making a purchase.

JOHOR BARU: Business operators in the city centre have heaved a sigh of relief as foot traffic increased with the government’s recent move to allow interstate travel, but most of them remain wary about observing Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The 101-year-old Hiap Joo Bakery in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, famous for buns and banana cakes, saw an increase of about 20% in sales in the past week, according to its third generation proprietor Lim Toh Huei.

The 32-year-old said the outlet benefited from the recent Selangor long weekend as there were noticeably more customers.

“Many customers told us that they stopped by downtown Johor Baru for a day tour to enjoy some good food before making their way to other tourist attractions.

“While relaxed travel is beneficial for us, as business owners, we are also worried about the spread of Covid-19, as well as the safety of our customers and employees.

“We still make it a point to observe the necessary SOP and disallow customers from entering our premises like before. They place and collect orders via a window by the entrance, ” he said when met by The Star.

Sea Wong, 40, owner of Flowers In The Window, a popular tourist spot known for photogenic food and decor, said his cafe business improved by 20% to 30% compared to the Nov 9-20 conditional movement control order period.

During that time, not more than three people were allowed to travel in a car and his business lost the family crowd.

He is glad that things are starting to look up again.

“Prior to the pandemic, my cafe was always crowded with Singaporean tourists and perhaps that was a deterrent for locals to visit us, as to avoid the crowd.

“The positive thing that came from the pandemic is that it gave the locals, who are itching to travel, a chance to explore local spots like mine. It is good to see many of them returning after their visit, ” said Wong, who has been operating in Jalan Dhoby for the past 15 years.

Administrative clerk G. Kartini, 42, who frequents the food outlets in Jalan Trus almost daily, said the higher number of visitors was encouraging, especially for local businesses.

“I also noticed how the public is easing into the new normal by wearing face masks properly and maintaining physical distancing, ” she said.

Meanwhile, Kin Wah coffee shop owner Tian Tau Choo said business in downtown Johor Baru, previously heavily dependent on tourists from across the border, is slowly recovering with the support of the local crowd.

“However, as long as the border continues to remain closed, it will be difficult for business to bounce back to the level before the pandemic, ” said the 60-year-old.

Electronics repair shop Lucky Radio and TV owner Cheng Hau Git, 75, chooses to remain positive about the situation although his business has dropped by half.

“While walk-in customers are fewer these days because of the pandemic and also due to the limited parking spots in this area, I have taken a proactive approach by going out to look for customers such as shops that require my services.

“I have been running this shop for the past 40 years. I consider this neighbourhood my home and look forward to more foot traffic soon to restore the liveliness of this area, ” he said.

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