Seated In A Refurbished Heritage Lot, This 83 Y/O Baking Shop In Penang Draws New Crowds
What tends to give a city its character and a sense of community to me, is its rich history.
Located on Carnarvon Street, Penang is a heritage building that’s been around since the late 1800s. Once a bookstore and an electronics store even longer ago, the abandoned store held a charm that can only come from an aged structure.
Fond of its history and central location in Georgetown, the team at Sim Company decided to rehabilitate it to expand their baking supplies shop.
Fixing It Up
Sim was started by Chew Sim Chuan and the late Khoo Eng Chong in 1938. It’s now being led by Chew Chye Hin and Jerry Tan, who are 2nd and 3rd generations of the family respectively.
As inventory grew, the store needed more space to display their confectioneries and provide customers a better shopping experience. Thus, the aforementioned building served a great opportunity.
Instead of demolishing and flipping the space however, the two decided to preserve its architecture and design. It was their way of protecting the history of Carnarvon Street in its golden age.
Normal wear and tear are expected from withstanding the environment and everyday use for old structures. To rehabilitate it, the team was shouldered with a mountain of renovation works.
Additionally, they needed to ensure that the ancient store was safe for both their staff and customers. The biggest cost component came from fixing its flooring, roofs, and the main beam that held up its structure.
Plus, most baking ingredients have to be preserved in a cool atmosphere to maintain their quality too. So, air conditioners and the corresponding vents needed to be installed.
Their plans were further held up when 2020’s MCO came around. Late deliveries for materials and SOPs enforced on construction workers caused extensive delays.
“Basically everything was a mess. It took us over a year to get everything done,” said Chye Hin and Jerry.
In total, the team spent almost a 5-figure sum to get the baking supplies store looking like it does today.
A Nostalgic Backdrop
Rehabilitating old buildings not only adds character to the area, but can also aid in attracting business too. Due to Sim’s sentimental looks, it works as a charming backdrop in photos taken by local tourists and residents.
Curious, some would enter the store to find out what the building hid inside as the store’s simple signage of “SIM” reveals little. Behind its glass doors, visitors are then met with shelves of baking equipment and baskets hoarding staple ingredients.
I tend to feel a certain kind of joy inside baking supplies stores thanks to the aromas of sugary baked goods, the colourful array of sprinkles, and their cool air. Even if I didn’t plan on getting anything, the ambience is usually enough to convince me to purchase an item or two.
Chye Hin and Jerry told Vulcan Post that this tends to be the behaviour of those entering their store too. After roaming around and snapping pictures, they’d end up walking out with a couple of goods themselves.
They shared that this helped in increasing the store’s revenue which was an untapped strategy in their previous store (that’s now being used as Sim’s storage unit).
Although part of Sim’s business is dependent on foot traffic, being a one-stop store for bakers in Georgetown has helped them throughout MCO.
“For MCO 2.0 we will try our best to learn the purchasing pattern of our customers and provide deliveries to those who prefer not to leave their homes,” they said.
Hence, the team is making it their short-term goal to go digital, as customers can only place orders through Facebook or by calling the shop for now.
In the long term, Chye Hin and Jerry hope to expand Sim to more locations around Malaysia.