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Despite stiff competition from major supermarkets and convenience stalls dotted all around the island, one mama shop in Bedok North is still experiencing brisk business, thanks to the hard work of its owner, Uncle Lim.
A TikTok video uploaded on Feb. 5 by Raphael Hugh, a Singaporean university student, gave Singaporeans a glimpse into the "secret life of mama shop owners".
The video documents what a regular morning is like for "Uncle Lim", the owner of the mama shop for over 34 years.
Arrives at 6am to set up shop
Uncle Lim, who is in his 60s, starts his day before the sun rises.
At 6:07am, he arrives at the shop in his bicycle.
Straightaway, he gets to work setting up his shop.
He then slides open the old-school metal shutters to his shop.
By 6:25am, many schoolchildren and adults can be seen waiting for the shop to open.
Uncle Lim busies himself getting the rest of the shop in order.
He does not have any shop assistants and runs the shop all by himself, everyday.
By 7:10am, Uncle Lim's stall is fully open.
You can view the full TikTok video here:
@rhckaraage repost: early morning behind-the-scenes of a HDB mama shop. mad respect for uncle lim!! #tiktoksg ♬ Notion - The Rare Occasions
Mama shop supported by regulars, residents living upstairs
Raphael, who has been conducting field work at the mama shop, told Mothership that Uncle's Lim business has definitely been affected by convenience stores and supermarkets.
The 24-year-old is doing his undergraduate thesis on mama shops in Singapore, and majors in Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College.
"I've noted that there are certain customer groups who help keep his business going. Those who have been long-time regulars and those who patronise for pure convenience (just staying upstairs)," said Raphael.
Raphael hopes that his research can help find out how mama shops like Uncle Lim's can compete better.
Ran the shop for over 34 years
In a separate TikTok video that Raphael uploaded, Uncle Lim said he has been running the shop for over 34 years.
The shop has been in the family for more than 40 years.
Uncle Lim took over the shop from his parents when they became sick.
The mama shop still retains some relics of the past — such as his father's old abacus.
Lim jokingly said he uses a calculator instead.
Uncle Lim said he is unsure if he will be able to transfer ownership of his shop after he retires due to HDB guidelines, and may have to sell the unit back to HDB instead.
He has also started to think about retirement in a few year's time.
Snacks and soft drinks favourite among kids
When asked what children like to buy at his shop, Lim said they liked snacks and soft drinks the most, especially Push Pop candies.
He also said hot weather was a good time for his business, as most would prefer to buy cold drinks from his shop.
Uncle Lim's shop also sells nostalgic childhood snacks not readily available at most modern convenience stores.
@rhckaraage Reply to @budgetjimin mad throwback. please help me save SG’s mama shops by commenting your best memories. for my final year thesis! 😭 #tiktoksg ♬ Toxic Pony - ALTÉGO & Britney Spears & Ginuwine
Shop closed on Saturdays
Uncle Lim's shop is located at Block 113 Bedok North St. 2.
It is open approximately between 6am to 6pm everyday, but is closed on Saturdays.
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All photos via @rhckaraage/TikTok.
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