SINGAPORE - For more than 20 years, housewife Lim Sock Eng would occasionally pop by the Popular bookstore in Marine Parade to buy items such as cookbooks and stationery.
She has fond memories of the home-grown bookstore chain’s outlet, which is closing on June 18 after more than 25 years, as she also used to take her two sons there to buy assessment books when they were still in school. Her sons are now in their 40s.
“I only realised that it is closing when I came here today. So I can’t bear to see it go,” the 69-year-old housewife told The Straits Times in Mandarin.
Madam Lim, who lives in the Joo Chiat area, was among 20 customers waiting at the bookstore’s entrance on Friday morning before it opened at 11am.
A “memory wall” plastered near the store’s entrance said, “We will miss you!”.
Patrons were encouraged to write their memories on a sticky note and paste it on the “wall” at the outlet.
One of the sticky notes read: “Dear Popular, I will miss you and I appreciate all the things you gave me throughout the (years). Stay our iconic little store.”
Another note read: “I will miss you so much. It is so convenient for me to read (here) while my mother shops for groceries.”
On June 2, Popular posted on its Facebook page that the outlet was having a closing sale, with some items having up to 90 per cent discount, till June 18.
Another regular patron who visited the bookstore on Friday was accountant Anu Samant.
The 47-year-old has been patronising the bookstore for the last 13 years.
She visits the bookstore once every two months and usually buys or looks at assessment books, story books and stationery for her family.
So she was surprised on Friday to learn that it was closing.
“I feel very sad,” said Ms Samant, who was accompanied by her 10-year-old son at the outlet. She also has a 14-year-old daughter.
“I think this is a great place to come with the kids for books and stationery,” said Ms Samant who lives in Tanjong Rhu, making the outlet a convenient location for her to shop.
“I feel that this (bookstore) met our needs… (and) because it’s been here for so long, there are also memories. So it’s a bit sad.”
Other younger patrons ST spoke to included 16-year-old Jayden Soh, who heard the news from his father.
“When I first heard (about the news), I was quite surprised… I thought it was very old… and had good business” said the Secondary Four student who lives in Katong.
Jayden, who usually visits the outlet once or twice a month to buy assessment books and stationery, said he has not thought of an alternative place to get his school supplies yet.
Besides books, the outlet also sells items such as tidbits and IT gadgets.
Nia Alin, a 14-year-old Secondary Two student at CHIJ Katong Convent, who was at the bookstore with three classmates, bought some macarons, as they were on sale.
The closure of the outlet has also drawn patrons who do not live in the eastern part of Singapore.
They include 47-year-old housewife Tim Ngiap Fong and her 11-year-old daughter, Leong Lok Yan, who live in the Boon Keng area.
Madam Tim and Lok Yan usually head to the Popular bookstore at Toa Payoh HDB Hub to buy pens and notebooks.
But they decided to visit the outlet at Marine Parade after Lok Yan’s classmate told her that there was a sale.
“I also saw Popular’s Facebook page that the outlet here is closing, so I decided to come with my daughter since it’s the June school holidays as well,” said Madam Tim.
When ST approached Popular staff at the outlet, they declined to comment. ST has contacted Popular for comment about its outlet closure.
Popular has been known among generations of Singaporeans as the go-to place for assessment and school books, as well as stationery.
In recent years, the bookstore has closed some of its outlets, including one at Thomson Plaza in 2019 and at IMM in 2021.
Today, Popular has 28 outlets islandwide, according to its website. It is unclear how many outlets Popular had previously.
The company, which was listed publicly in 1997, delisted in 2015. Popular Holdings also has businesses in areas such as publishing and property.