Jiang Ji Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice has closed on April 20, 2022.
The coffee shop stall was opened by one of the chefs from the pioneer Chatterbox batch, Sergeant Kiang Joon Toh, but is now run by his children.
Helmed by Kiang's three children, Alvin, Susan and Raymond, the stall was located at 780 Yishun Ring Road.
It was hailed as a wallet-friendly alternative to the S$25 (excluding GST and service charge) you'd pay at Chatterbox today.
They're closing, but (hopefully) not for good
On March 24, they announced that they made the "difficult decision" to cease operations on April 20 as they are "unable to keep up with the rising rental and food costs".Raymond said:
"We have been here for close to two years and our regulars have told us that they're very sad that we're closing. The new [coffee shop] landlord [wanted to] increase from our present rental to almost 2.5 times. We have been paying S$1,800 but he told us that it would become S$4,500.
Other costs have also been rising. It's no longer feasible for us to continue operating here. The people who live nearby are mostly old folks, and we don't want to charge so much for food."
He told Mothership that their chicken rice used to be priced at S$3.50, but they raised it to S$4 after Chinese New Year because of rising costs.
Kiang shared that he "feels really bad" about their regulars as he expects that they will probably take "quite a few months or more to restart this biz elsewhere".
He added that they received quite a few pre-orders, and decided to start selling their chicken rice at 9:30am—half an hour earlier than their usual —on their last day.
They sold out before their usual closing time of 4:30pm.
New adventure overseas
The silver lining is that he will be embarking on a new adventure by bringing his chicken rice beyond Singapore.
While Raymond declined to share where he will be headed or who he will be working with on the overseas venture, he revealed that he's "just an employee" and will be based outside of Singapore for "at least three months".
In the meantime, Susan will also have a much-needed break as her knee has been giving her trouble in recent months. The siblings intend to wait until she is fully recovered—especially if she requires surgery—before they decide on their next move.
"The previous landlord is very nice. He has told me that he'll keep a lookout for possible stalls and contact me if so. I assured him that I'm not in a rush.
The current market is crazy, so I understand where the new landlord is coming from—he's a businessman and needs to make a living too. But it really doesn't make sense for us to be paying so much when we're serving simple food."
All except one of the stalls in the coffee shop are also closing
When Mothership visited the coffee shop on April 20, two out of the five stalls were closed.
Raymond explained, "Everyone except the tze char stall is moving out. None of us can afford the new rental prices."
The owner of Tiger Seafood • Bak Kut Teh, a lady who wanted to be known as Janet, remarked, "Tze char stalls have always had higher rentals than other types of stalls, so I wasn't affected too badly."
"The rental under the new contract is about 15 per cent higher than what I was paying, and that's just how it is right now. Even if I were to set up shop somewhere else, I'd be paying similar prices, so I'd rather stay put here.
We've tried to avoid raising our prices but things are really out of our hands now. One container of oil used to be S$20 plus, but now it's S$50. Prices of the ingredients and utilities are also on the rise, so I think we'll have to increase our prices by about S$0.50 to S$1 after the renovation work at the coffee shop is completed.
It's sad that everyone else is moving out by this month, but I understand why they decided to do so."
Coffee shop's new owner refutes claim
Mothership reached out to the current landlord of the coffee shop, a man known as Derrick, for comment.
He disputed the claim of the rise in rental costs and said that S$1,800 is only the rental for half a stall, while there is not such price for a "whole stall".
Instead, it is around S$4,000, as "this is the trend."
"Rental only is around S$3,000 plus per stall," he said.
He also revealed that the contracts of the existing tenants are ending soon, and confirmed that he has secured tenants for the vacated stalls:
"It's not that we're chasing them away [...] We bought over the coffee shop about one year [ago] and contract-wise, we had to continue. But [their contracts] end at the end of this month so there are new [tenants] coming in."
Top photos by Jiang Ji Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice.
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