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Keeping Mian Zhuang – a hawker stall selling handmade ban mian and mee hoon kueh at Hong Lim Market & Food Centre – afloat has been a hard-fought battle for Jonathan Chng, 29, and Vanessa Ong, 26. The former currency trading broker and logistics executive opened the stall shortly before the onset of the pandemic in December 2019 and, despite much media attention, were plagued with the same issues as the rest of the F&B industry soon after.

“Being based in Hong Lim, we were the first to get hit. I remember the first month [when the pandemic started], we still saw tourists. Chinatown is a tourist hotspot. The next month, there was nobody. The sales were terrible,” Jonathan, who comes from a family of ban mian hawkers, says dejectedly.

As the pandemic progressed, things didn’t get much better for the hawkers. First came the circuit breaker – then, the year after, Hong Lim Market & Food Centre was closed for deep cleaning after a cluster related to the Jurong Fishery port one emerged. While the hawker was serving out a quarantine order at a hotel from July 17 to 31, he decided: it was time to call it a day for Mian Zhuang.

Sadly, the failed biz also took its toll on the young couple’s relationship — they recently broke off their engagement.

8days.sg speaks to the young towkay to find out what’s next for him and Vanessa, as well as the ban mian brand they’ve been building over the past two years.

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