End of chapter after 67 years

Katong News Agency, which opened in 1955, is shutting down after 67 years in business.

The 1,386 sq ft, two-storey shophouse was sold for $4.2 million, or at $3,029 per sq ft, in December.

The last day of business will be Aug 31, said owner Abdul Samad (right), 66.

People familiar with Tanjong Katong will remember how the shop on 350 Tanjong Katong Road was once popular with parents and students for its extensive range of school textbooks, assessment books, novels, magazines and stationery.

During the December school holidays, Katong News Agency would be bustling with parents snapping up textbooks and stationery for their children for the new school term.

Often, the shop stayed open till late into the night, sometimes closing at midnight, recalled Mr Samad.

His father, Mr Abdul Salam, came from India and started Katong News Agency in 1955.

In the beginning, it was a general provision shop selling groceries, cosmetics and books. In the 1960s, when the nearby Tanjong Katong Girls School started holding classes in the evenings, Mr Salam saw the opportunity to sell textbooks to those attending the night classes, said Mr Samad.

Gradually, Mr Salam switched to selling books to cater to students in nearby schools.

Mr Samad said his father was paying rent of $100 a month until 1972, when he bought over the freehold unit for under $300,000.

The iconic shop had catered to generations of students from nearby schools, including Tanjong Katong Girls School, Tanjong Katong Technical School, Dunman High School and Chung Cheng High School (Main), in the 1960s to 1990s.

Business plunged when three of the schools moved out of Tanjong Katong Road in the late 1990s.

In 2001, Katong News Agency stopped selling textbooks and was converted into a minimart selling household items, snacks, stationery and toys. By then, Mr Salam had already left the business in the care of his three children.

"During the good times, parents who lived in other parts of Singapore would also travel here to get the assessment books for their children," recalled Mr Samad, who started running the store in 2006. "I am very sad to retire. I have been running the store seven days a week since I took over the business.

"My customers are all very nice. Some of them who had moved out of the area would still return to visit the shop."

With more people shopping online, it is more challenging to keep his business running, said Mr Samad.

In 2019, Mr Samad, who has four children in their 30s, decided to put up the unit for sale.

The Straits Times

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