64-Year-Old Hainan Coffee Shop In Klang
Since the Choon Guan Cafe was established in 1956 by Foo Hee Hong, no one really knows the meaning or the origin story behind the restaurant’s name.
Not even the family that runs the company, who passed it on to its third generation.
“My grandfather passed away before I was born. We never got a chance to ask him about what the brand means, ”said Foo’s 28-year-old grandson David, who now runs the company.
Enforce a brand identity
Directly translated from “Spring Garden”, (偆 園) Choon Guan has been operating for over 6 decades.
But the name of the restaurant never really mattered. For years, many of their customers, even his regulars, did not even know his name.
Instead, they just named the store after its owner: Ah Foo’s cafe, Ah Foo’s kopitiam, Ah Foo’s store.
“After my grandfather passed away, it became Cafe Ah Keow (my mom), or Morgan (younger uncle), or Chee Chin (my aunt),” David said.
When David finally took up the torch a few years ago, he imposed a stronger brand identity with Choon Guan.
“Hainan Coffee” was then added for brand recognition, following the steps of well-known MNC brands like Subway Sandwich, OldTown White Coffee, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc.
Today, it is officially known as Choon Guan Hainan coffee.
The earth was a gift
Born on the Chinese island of Hainan, Foo came to Malaysia in the 1940s to work for the British District Officer (DO) as a personal home chef. In the evening, he took English lessons to better communicate with his bosses.
When the British DO planned to retire and move their entire family to England, they invited Foo to join them.
“But my grandfather decided to stay in Malaysia. So, they suggested my grandfather open his own cafe instead of looking for other jobs, ”David explained.
To thank him for his service over the years, the UK DO gifted Foo with land in Port Klang, where he built a shop to open the Choon Guan Cafe in 1956.
After starting the business, he got permits to move his wife and 8-year-old daughter to Malaysia in early 1957.
Set a goal
Over the years, the family began to establish SOPs for cooking their food and making their Hainan coffee. One of the biggest changes to their menu has been the removal of many dishes.
The late Foo being a chef for the British, he sold a variety of cuisines at the cafe. It included Western dishes ranging from fish and chips to chicken chop, and Asian dishes from kuih to noodles.
“There was a period after my grandfather passed away where my mother and grandmother only managed to maintain Hainan chicken rice, drinks (Hainan coffee and tea) and breads,” he said. he explained.
Due to labor issues, even Hainan Chicken Rice was taken out for a while before coming back soon after. When David took over, the restaurant started adding more variety again.
Today, they offer the regular assortment you’ll find in any kopitiam, from boiled eggs to curry laksa, nasi lemak, and cream pudding, all made from scratch.
Thanks to this quality control, Choon Guan was able to expand to 5 other sites in Selangor, which unfortunately had to cease operations when the pandemic struck. The brand has struggled to move into the digital sphere.
We focused a lot on the dinners. The pandemic has taught me a valuable lesson: never put all your eggs in one basket. Sales have dropped dramatically. We wanted to subscribe for the deliveries but not because of high commissions. We were quite reluctant to mark up the prices of our food and drink.
David, director of Choon Guan Hainan Coffee.
Instead of closing their shop, the team reached out to regulars, offered them automatic pickup for takeout orders, and even deliveries via Lalamove and Grab Delivery.
Although Choon Guan had to bear the additional costs of the food packaging, they mitigated the commission payment.
David told Vulcan Post that Choon Guan never got over the pandemic, but their customers did for them.
As for the land offered by the British? David shared that it was the only branch still in existence today.
The restaurant is now located on what was once the parking lot of the original shop which was infested with termites 2 years ago.
Growing up with the restaurant
From a young age, David has always been with the company. Although he can’t remember when he first started helping out, Choon Guan remains much of his childhood.
So much so that repeat customers felt like his long lost loved ones who would know about his performance in school and even his love life.
When Choon Guan launched his Hainan instant coffee packs 10 years ago, he roped up some friends and sold the product in morning markets together. They would then share the profits for additional pocket money.
With 6 decades of history already behind him, David wants Choon Guan to reach a century, and his wildest dream is to make him a household name, not only in Malaysia but also in ASEAN countries to. to come up.
- You can read more about Choon Guan Hainan coffee here.
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Featured Image Credit: TauFuLou and Choon Guan Hainan Coffee
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