Dempsey tenants hold out hope they can continue business at ‘second home’
Two of them said they have looked for alternative venues but nothing matches up to Dempsey, which is like a "second home".
SINGAPORE: Mr Peter Hedger has been selling carpets at Dempsey for 15 years and wants to do it for as long as he is able to, but he may call it quits soon, with his lease running out.
The lease for Hedger’s Carpet Gallery will run out in March next year and whether he will get an extension is up in the air.
“We are some of the pioneers that made Dempsey famous and then now to lose that, is a big loss to us,” he told CNA.
“It's like building your home and then somebody comes and takes it away.”
Authorities plan to introduce diverse offerings at the former military barracks to enhance its reputation as a lifestyle destination.
While Mr Hedger said he is looking for another space as he waits to hear back from his landlord on whether he can stick around, he has come up empty so far.
“I've looked and checked around but there's nothing suitable for my industry, which is a bit on the mid-market to the upper market,” he said.
He added that Dempsey is a “wonderful place” for his business.
“Push comes to shove, and we cannot find a suitable place to move in come March, then there's a highly likely possibility that we might have to close shop,” he told CNA.
He said that the tenants are holding out hope that the authorities will empathise with them.
In response to queries from CNA, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which manages Dempsey, said it will engage all direct and master tenants before the end of their tenancy terms.
"SLA may consider an extension of tenancies on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration factors such as the specific circumstances of the site and the overall planning intention of the precinct," it said.
“SECOND HOME” LIKE NO OTHER
Another business owner in the same boat as Mr Hedger is Ms Ang of Woody Antique House.
The store has called Dempsey home for more than two decades.
“This is like a second home already,” she said, adding that expat customers who have left the country visit the store with new friends whenever they return here.
She noted that when the store first opened, it was among several furniture shops selling teak wood and artefacts, along with many carpet shops as well.
Woody Antique House is now one of a few furniture shops that remain at the popular lifestyle destination, she said.
“There's this rustic charm where you know, people can come here, they will browse through all the shops and then they can find little treasures, hidden in the corners and things like that," she said.
She has been given a three-month extension on the store’s lease, but Ms Ang is not sure what will happen after that.
She is already searching for an alternative location, but like Mr Hedger, is finding it hard to find a place as good as Dempsey.
“To find another place like Dempsey, I think it’s quite difficult in Singapore, with a big open space like this with lots of greenery,” she said.
RETAINING DEMPSEY’S IDENTITY
Both business owners felt that the Dempsey they once knew is changing.
Ms Ang said that with the introduction of more eateries, furniture shops started moving out despite the increased footfall.
“I’m afraid that Dempsey is slowly losing its identity,” said Mr Hedger, adding that the mix is now “weighted more” to food and beverage outlets.
Previously, there was a nice balance of traditional art shops, modern galleries, collectibles, and eateries, he added.
“We have a unique identity. Don't lose it. When it's not broken, don't fix it. That's the worst thing that can be done,” he said.
While Mr Hedger said he will not have a problem finding buyers for his stock if he decides to shut down, he hopes it does not have to get to that point.
“I don't want to stop this business until the day I drop,” he said.