Chew waits for better times


Survivors: Chew (left) at his closed store while his wife Lee Kah Lai, 47, holds up a package of frozen durian from Balik Pulau at Chew Jetty in George Town. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: After more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all business and tourism operators at Chew Jetty have closed for good or temporarily, leaving the once bustling jetties all quiet.

But Chew Cheng Chooi still lives there, waiting for the jetty of his ancestors to go back to livelier times so that he can sell his durian puffs and ice cream again.

The 61-year-old said all the businesses and stores had been closed for months.

Chew gets by because Penangites enjoy his durian puffs and so he still gets orders.

Situated along Weld Quay not far from the ferry terminal are several hundred wooden homes built on stilts above the sea, separated into jetties.

These jetty householders are segregated since the early 1900s by their Chinese surnames, such as Chew, Tan and Lim.

“Those that remain are residents with almost all businesses closed indefinitely.

“About 95% of businesses have moved, closed or stopped renting the houses here.

“As we stopped operating since August last year, many were unable to pay the rent and as such, moved away temporarily or stopped altogether.

“Chew Jetty is a renowned tourism spot and without tourists, we cannot survive.

“We hope with more people getting vaccinated, some tourism activities can resume,” he said yesterday.

Chew now takes durian puff orders by phone or through the Internet.

He makes the puffs at home and gave up his rented shop on the jetty.

“I own my house on the jetty, so my burden is lighter. As my family members are working as well, we can make do,” he said.

Chew used to receive orders for 50 boxes but now can only get one or two boxes.

“My wife and I decided to keep going because we started the business and don’t want it to end.

“We can only hope that once the majority are vaccinated, interstate travel and tourism can restart.

“We heard news that those who are vaccinated may be given more freedom, so we hope it involves tourism,” he said.

Chew expects business at Chew Jetty to take some time to rebound.

“I think we will need at least three years to go back to the pre-Covid-19 period,” he said.

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