SINGAPORE – On the second floor of the Old Airport Road hawking center, an unassuming little bookstore has popped up.
Called Dakota Dreams, it sells children’s books and comics by Singaporean authors as well as pre-loved titles.
Its neighbors are clothing stores and a Covid-19 rapid test center. Elderly residents stop to leaf through magazines; children pull their grandparents to look at picture books on the shelves.
When it comes to bookstore locations, a hawking center may not seem like the obvious choice. But for the five founders of Dakota Dreams – all retired or semi-retired, several with a previous connection to the book industry – it makes sense.
“It’s unusual,” said retired Sng-Fun professor Poh Yoke, 68. âPeople are often surprised to see us here. But why not? Our motto has always been to reach out to ordinary people who maybe don’t even go to a mall, let alone a bookstore, but who do. at the market or hawking center. “
Dakota Dreams was first imagined when longtime Dakota resident Vienna Fong, 54, who volunteers with older people in the area, worried about the isolation of the elderly during the Covid-19.
She roped up her fellow Cantonese opera singer Chan Wai Han, 65, and Madame Sng-Fun, former artistic and bilingual editor of the Straits Times.
Ms. Chan’s husband Fong Hoe Fang, 67, retired founder of local publisher Ethos Books, and Mr. Richard Chong, 67, who worked in book printing and distribution, also joined. ours.
In October, they pooled their funds and bid on a locked unit at Old Airport Road, initially with the goal of giving single seniors in the area a place to relax. Then, given Mr. Fong’s editorial roots, the space began to fill with books.
Mr Fong estimates that there are currently around 20 to 30 titles in the store, from Constance Singam’s children’s book The Birds In The Bamboo Tree (2021) to Joshua Chiang Ronin Rat & Ninja Cat’s comedy miniseries ( 2019).
He sells new books for $ 9 to $ 12 and already loved books for $ 2 to $ 5. All proceeds will go towards rent and overhead of the space, which cost less than $ 1,000 per month. The five retirees take turns volunteering to run the store.
Books may be the main draw, they say, but people come for more than that. Seniors will stop to ask for help with their phones or for advice on whether something is a scam. Parents can leave their children at the store while they go shopping.
A Dakota resident, named Madame Chua, sits outside the store, browsing a cooking magazine. “I live with my son and when he is at work I am alone at home,” the 71-year-old man says in Mandarin. “It’s nice to have a place to go out to sit.”
Dakota Dreams also sells crafts and cards made by elderly people and plans to hold events such as storytelling sessions for children in the New Year, depending on the Covid-19 situation.