Closure: Mustafa Centre, Serangoon Plaza.

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Serangoon Plaza is set to be demolished for redevelopment work. For the iconic landmark in the Little India district since the 1960s, January marks the last month of operation for the oldest branch of 24-hour retailer, Mustafa Centre.

UrbanWire takes a walk through the store where retro neon signs, a thing of the past, still flashes despite the modernization of the stretch of road with condominiums, malls and hotels being built over the years.

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Serangoon Plaza, where Mustafa Centre opened its first store in the mid 1980’s.

The first person one sees when they walk into the plaza, Madam Jayathe.

The first person one sees when they walk into the plaza, Madam Jayathe.

 

Madam Jayathe has been working at the Serangoon Plaza outlet for 21 years. The 61-year-old is stationed at the entrance where she secures loose bags with plastic zip ties, a signature Mustafa Centre move to prevent shoplifting at its outlets.

“I feel very sad, I been here for a long time already. When I first joined, here also very good business, this one is the first (Mustafa) building,” she says.

For some employees like L.Mani, life would go on despite the change. The 49-year-old has worked for the retailer for 15 years and would continue work at the other outlets at Syed Alwi Road.

"Must celebrate last day la." Mani said, when asked about the slight alcohol scent of his breath.

“Must celebrate last day la.”
Mani said, when asked about the slight alcohol scent of his breath.

 

“There’s an attachment to our business (here) for a long time, so now its closing down, the connection is not there anymore,” says Shadad Khan, the 35-year-old has spent a majority of his youth at Serangoon Plaza, working there for 10 years.

Shahad Khan

Shahad Khan

 

In 2003, Mustafa Centre made a risky move opening for 24-hours, something unusual for retail stores. It has since found a loyal fan-base in locals insomniacs, transit tourists and foreign workers looking for a good deal along its overstocked aisles.

“I don’t feel sad because I already bought everything that I want to buy!” sprightly student and frequent visitor, Sharmili exclaimed when asked about her feelings towards the closure.

Shoppers Sharmili and her mother who visited the store for their last sales

Shoppers Sharmili and her mother who visited the store for their last sales

 

The 7-year-old was particularly fond of the shoes she bought which were sold at Mustafa Serangoon’s last great sale, with some pairs going as cheap as $3.50.

Checking out purchases at the cashiers, Serangoon Plaza has been a frequent haunt for foreign workers on their off days on Sunday.

Checking out purchases at the cashiers, Serangoon Plaza has been a frequent haunt for foreign workers on their off days on Sunday.

Shutters were already shut with the anticipation of the closure.

Shutters were already shut with the anticipation of the closure.

 

With the closure of their flagship outlet, Mustafa Centre’s retail space is being reduced by a quarter. The Serangoon Plaza outlet takes up 65,000 sqf over 3 floors and sold everything from clothes, cosmetics, electrical appliances to gold and silver jewellery.

Last days at Serangoon Plaza

Last days at Serangoon Plaza

Slated for official closure on Feb 1, Mustafa’s remaining outlets at Syed Alwi Road will continue to operate and hold stock leftover from the last final sale at Serangoon Plaza.

The iconic neon signages of Mustafa Centre, Serangoon Plaza.

The iconic neon signages of Mustafa Centre, Serangoon Plaza.

 

About Charlene Koh

Charlene enjoys long walks to the fridge, the company of cats and emotional eating. An avid fan of computer gaming, you can find her in front of her computer on weekends shouting choice phrase at virtual zombies or hunting down dragons on Skyrim.