SINGAPORE: For 36-year-old Benjamin Tan and his three friends, the trip from Singapore's west will be worth the effort once they get their hands on Chakey's Serangoon Salt Baked Chicken for the final time.
The four arrived outside the outlet on East Coast Road at about 6.30am on Sunday (Dec 31), had breakfast nearby, then proceeded to make themselves comfortable on foldable chairs they had brought with them.
They were third in line to buy the chicken.
"I came here on Friday and Saturday, but there were more than 20 people in the queue each time and by then, the chicken was sold out," Mr Tan said.
"So this time, we came earlier, and we came prepared to wait."
Mr Tan heard about the famous salt baked chicken about five years ago, and along with his friends, wanted to have one final taste of nostalgia.
By 10.30am, half an hour before the shop was slated to open for the final time, more than 80 people had formed a queue, stretching along the entrance of five restaurants.
Among them was 21-year-old Ryan Chan, who had heard about the chicken on social media and had wanted to try it but never got the chance.
Another person in the queue, Linda Goh, said she was a regular customer, stopping by the shop after church to get the chicken for the family.
"It goes really well with pasta and chicken, so during exam time for my children, I'd also come and get it for them," she said.
Ms Goh said this was the first time she has had to queue for the chicken.
"When I used to come after church, it was always quiet. I think we took it for granted that it would still be here but there was always a feeling it might one day close."
For the shop's owner, Richard Chak, opening for the final time came with mixed feelings.
"I've been stressed out about the crowd for the last few days, with making sure people get their chicken and don't go home empty-handed."
But he has had to disappoint many and apologise for not having enough, despite doubling the number of chickens he bakes.
Mr Chak said he has had to impose a quota of one chicken per customer to be fair to others in the queue.
Even as he opened the shop's shutters this morning, he had to tell people to come back in the afternoon when he found there were more than 80 people waiting in line.
A REUNION OF OLD FRIENDS, FORMER STAFF
The final day of business was also an opportunity for Mr Chak to reconnect with familiar faces.
Among them were old church friends and his grandfather's former staff, Alice Pang.
Ms Pang read about the business closing down and got in touch with Mr Chak a few days ago.
Ms Pang worked for the elder Mr Chak in the 1960s, when the business still out operated out of the family home in Mohamed Sultan.
"During the old days, there were gangsters hanging around and it was unsafe, so my mother preferred us to work nearby," Ms Pang recalled. She lived a few doors down from Mr Chak's home.
Ms Pang, who was 13-years-old then would work for the business during school holidays for extra pocket money.
She would help with cleaning, baking and wrapping the chicken, and recalled the busy days especially when trade fairs were around the corner.
But there were also fond memories.
"Richard's family was among the few with a black and white television then, so after finishing work, we would sit around and watch TV together," she said.
"I'm sad and sentimental about it, " the 64-year-old said about the closure. "I was telling Richard he should sell the recipe."
When asked if he would, Mr Chak said he would wait for his son to finish university and decide if he wanted to carry on the family's legacy.