Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Old Habits at 38 Telok Blangah Rise #01-315 S(090038) - The History & Beginning of how it all started

Donovan Goh & Selena Kam both 33, studied in Australia & worked there after graduation 8 yrs ago. Both Don & Selena are Chemical Engineers by training, having studied in RMIT Chemical Engineering in Melbourne, Australia, after completing their Chemical Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic. 

Back in Singapore the husband & wife team both ran a Vintage stall at the China Square Flea market once a month whilst still working. After working for about 5 years, they decided to open Old Habits, combining their interest in vintage paraphernalia with cafe management. This was the birth of Old Habits.  

Donovan Goh is the Resident Chef whilst Selena Kam is the In house Barista. They both started out new to the cafe industry, but Donovan picked up culinary skills along the way. The cafe serves mainly Desserts, Drinks, Starters, Mains (such as Shepherd's Pie, Jessy's Spicy Casserole, Portobello Mushroom Sandwich, Old Habits Brekky, Egg Mayo Toast), Finger Food, Tea selections.  

The Founders Donovan Goh & Selena Kam
Donovan (or Don for short) Goh & Selena Kam are Co-Founders of Old Habits. Old Habits started back in Jan 2013 whilst Donovan was working in Singapore. 
Education Background in Melbourne 
Both Donovan Goh & Selena Kam studied & majored in Chemical Engineering at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia from 2005 to 2008, after their graduation from Singapore Polytechnic. They both graduated in 2008 from their RMIT course & worked for about 2 years before deciding to return to Singapore because they missed families ties.  

Whilst in Australia, Donovan worked in the Civil Engineering field for 2 years. Prior to their return to Singapore, Donovan Goh & Selena Kam wanted to get rid of some old stuff so Selena started selling these old stuffs online through eBay. What started as a venture to clear old stuff became a business opportunity. So when the couple returned to Singapore, Donovan Goh & Selena Kam set up stall on weekends to sell vintage goods in flea markets at China Square back in Jan 2013. 
These days the enterprising couple Donovan Goh & Selena Kam gets their vintage collectible items from various sources, ranging from overseas vintage collectors, the occasional "dumpster-dive" or salvage from people who discards old items, to the antique stores here, and build their vintage collection to a point where they feel it is time to get go of these items for a tidy profit. 

The Birth of Old Habits 
Since Jan 2013, Donovan Goh & Selena Kam set up stall at China Square flea market to market their vintage collectibles. They had a number of loyal regular customers asking them where is their antique store located, they could not give an address as they did not have a shopfront yet. So around December 2013 they chanced upon this place at 38 Telok Blangah Rise #01-315 which was available for lease. It took them quite a while to apply permits & the necessary licences through relevant authorities to operate a cafe in this sleepy corner of Telok Blangah Rise. 

So about 3 to 4 months later they finally got the place approved for operations. They started renovation & painting works. Donovan Goh & Selena Kam are a pretty hands on couple and did most part of the furnishing themselves with paintworks & lightings done DIY all by themselves which turn out to be quite a feat. The major carpentry works are done mainly in the building of the countertop, the rest are pretty much completed on their own. They retain much of the original structure as per when they took over the unit.

These days the enterprising couple do not keep their vintage collectibles in a warehouse but stores them in boxes mainly at home or displayed on shelves at home, & some can be seen displayed at their Old Habits cafe shelves & cupboards.

Positioning of Old Habits 
Donovan Goh shared that he & Selena Kam started Old Habits because they wanted to own a cafe where "people from all walks of life & all ages can come & relax, away from the hustle & bustle of town & city life & enjoy a cup of coffee, & have delightful snacks & sandwiches."
He shared that Old Habits has many things trinkets that fascinates both the young & the old, there is no age limit to which to define his customer base as the young & old are equally enamoured with his collections. 
Don & Selena Kam invested as 5 figure into this business and is certain they will breakeven easily within the first year of operation. Currently Old Habits concentrates on building a steady following for its food & coffee served here. Down the line they hope to see revenue income coming from both the food as well as the retail vintage & collectible items sales. To date Donovan & Selena advertise on Facebook to promote their brand & to improve their reach.  

Old Habits is positioned as a cafe that provides Lunch, Weekend Brunch, Dinner, Snacks with Sandwich, Desserts, Ice-Cream, Coffee, Tea as its core menu items. 
Secrets to their Success 
  • Knowing their customers personally - Co-Founders Donovan Goh & Selena Kam aims to provide a personalized neighbourhood friendly service when running their cafe by knowing their customers personally by their names, remembering their customers' dietary, eating habits & preferences etc.  
  • Winning concept of combining food with retail sales - Donovan shared that their concept of combining food & drinks with vintage collectible sales is a new concept idea they come up with on their own, not from any cafe throwbacks from their stint in Melbourne, Australia. In fact Donovan shared there are currently a few cafe with vintage concept here in Singapore. Old Habits adopts a slightly different concept in that everything in the cafe is for sale, the signages, posters, paraphenalia, collectibles, even the furnitures are for sale. The very fact that there are so many paraphenalia displayed on the set here at Old Habits where the customers can hold & touch & play with before they decide to buy or not to buy, it provides an environment where customers are lost in a time warp, so they are not pressured into rushing into anything but can relax and take their time to enjoy feasting visually on these collectibles. 
New plans 
With their current cafe Old Habits running into its second year Donovan & Selena hope to develop another aspect of their interest Anime Cosplay concept cafe within 8 to 10 years. 

Why the name "Old Habits"
The name "Old Habits" was coined by Selena Kam. It is so named because everyone has & still retain some of their old habits and these old habits live with them throughout their whole entire lifetime and is never given up. This is exactly what Donovan & Selena hope to achieve to own - a cafe that everyone never gives up, a place where everyone can be themselves & not pretend to be someone else. 

Background Industry 
Donovan Goh himself is an avid antique clocks & watch collector. He comes from the Civil Engineering field, particularly the Oceanographics industry, where he studies how ocean currents can impact the earth environmentally & commercially.  
Selena Kam work as Sales Executive in Medico Singapore for close to a year before coming on board full time to start Old Habits. 
Their roles at Old Habits 
Donovan Goh is the Resident Chef at Old Habits . He has no culinary training but he & Selena does a lot of research & development at their home kitchen to create tasty food that is easy to prepare. 

An example is their dessert call Coconut Kueh that has a local twist - with a texture between a pudding & a cake. In their preparation of setting up Old Habits, Donovan Goh & Selena Kam spent hours pouring into cookbooks, looked up recipes & try out these recipes on focus groups made of friends family members to obtain feedback before putting them on the menu. For the record however Selena Kam does most of the cooking in their 8 year stint in Melbourne, Australia so she is indeed the actual Chef at home. 
Currently Old Habits has 2 partners  Donovan Goh & Selena Kam, the husband & wife team. Old Habits is the only brand they own for now. 
Expansion Plans 
Currently this is the one & only Old Habits outlet with a 3 year lease at 38, Telok Blangah Rise. The couple do have future plans to open new outlet under different concept e.g. Anime Cosplay concept. 
Menu Category 
To date Old Habits serves Starters, Desserts, Drinks, Specialty Tea such as Green Tea Latte, Popcorn flavor in Green Tea latte. 
The Signatures 
  • Coconut Kueh - this is a special hot & cold dessert & consists of hot coconut cake top with cold ice cream. Like a souffle top with ice cream. 
  • Tiramisu - this is handmade with recipe by Selena Kam.
  • Jessy's Casserole - this is a recipe by Selena's godmother, that taste like curry but is not really curry, uses chicken, spices & home made mashed potato as toppings, & looked like Shepherd's Pie.
  • Portobello Mushroom Sandwich - this recipe came about because they were thinking of coming up with a specialty burger, the idea spun into a healthier version using portobello mushroom. 
  • Mushroom Soup - this recipe uses ingredients all made from scratch, then blended. 
Kitchen Works 
Here at the Old Habits kitchen Donovan Goh & Selena Kam makes their own salad sauces from scratch. 
They made their mashed potatoes at the kitchen here, & do not add cheese or butter, typically very rustic unadulterated flavors here. 
Donovan & Selena gets most of the ingredients used in their kitchen at Old Habits from local suppliers. 
For Jessy's Casserole - they use frozen chicken legs which they have to de-skin, then diced before use. They also use shallots which they diced themselves for use as filling for Jessy's Casserole. Donovan & Selena is in the process of developing a seafood dish - using fresh fish, which they will launch once the recipe is finalised.
For Shepherd's Pie - Donovan uses minced beef he gets from supplier which he then marinates himself. The Shepherd's Pies are usually cooked early & stored in chiller then warmed upon order. 
Donovan has 3 types of sandwich items & he uses bread from Baker's Secret.
With exception of the casseroles & pies, most food at Old Habits are served ala minute. 
Slogan & Mission Statement 
"Where your past comes alive"

Ordering - available at the Ordering Counter 

Payment - Cash & NETS only.

Booking of Cafe Venue (*for special private events, celebrations & gatherings) - available upon request.

Catering for food & drinks for small group meeting - available. 

Takeaway Service - available when customers either call or drop by to order. Cafe does not tie up with Delivery vendors yet. 

Loyalty Programs - no available officially but they do provide personal touch to regular customers by giving some light snack & treats to welcome them.

Retail merchandise with Old Habits theme on sale - not yet available. 

Retail sales of food products - still in R&D phase. 

Target Market - the young & the old, people 
from all walks of life. 
Seating  Capacity - 24 pax. 
Old Habits Boutique & Cafe is located at : 
38 Telok Blangah Rise 
#01-315, S(090038)
Tel : 91277147 / 96442777
Nearest MRT : HarbourFront MRT (Vivocity) 
Opening Hours : 
11 am to 9.30pm (Closed on Mondays)
Serves Brunch, Lunch & Dinner 

River JOrdan and JOrdan being groovy on the disco floor !

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