There may soon be a new shine to Sunset Way.
A new master tenant has taken over nine Housing Board shops in Sunset Way and the challenge of drawing a crowd to the area earmarked as a dining destination.
On Dec 1, Aquilyne Capital took over as master tenant for three years from Circles International Solutions, which had been managing the area since its million-dollar revamp in 2007. Circles did not renew its contract.
The area was touted as the next Holland Village back then, but has failed to live up to its tag. Four of the nine shops at Block 106 Clementi Street 12, all set aside for use as eateries, have remained closed for about a year.
Instead of Holland Village, Aquilyne Capital director Derrick Kuek, 56, now wants to make it “the next Dempsey”. He wants his eateries to be “destination brands” like Dempsey Hill.
“For example, today I say, ‘Let’s go somewhere for coffee.’ You may just say, ‘Go to Dempsey’ without having a specific place in mind.”
Mr Kuek, former chief operating officer of ABR Holdings, which has Swensen’s as one of its brands, believes he can pull this off with branding, signage, and the right tenant mix.
Aquilyne used to run Manhattan Fish Market at Junction 8 and has franchised Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice. It is now discussing terms with the five existing tenants – Buttercake n Cream, Smokey’s BBQ, Bai Li Xiang, Rocky’s Pizza and Megumi Japanese Restaurant – whom Mr Kuek said are likely to stay.
With four shops to lease out, Mr Kuek wants to create variety in the cuisine, perhaps add Chinese, Indian or Thai food and something for the tea time crowd. “Ideally a couple who already have a reputation,” he said.
He also wants tenants who can open throughout the day or even 24 hours. Current eateries open mostly for lunch and dinner.
Mr Kuek is also thinking of naming the cluster of shops to distinguish it from the rest of Sunset Way – which includes other HDB blocks, Clementi Arcade mall, and private homes. “Perhaps Sunset Lane?” he said, referring to the road just before Sunset Way.
Sunset Lane leads to a little-known multistorey carpark linked to Block 106. Mr Kuek hopes to add signage just outside Sunset Lane to draw diners.
As it is costly and takes time to make drastic physical changes to the place given the permits needed, Mr Kuek said minor works will do. He has added skylights to the canopy of the eateries’ alfresco dining area and painted parts of it white to brighten the space.
As for clientele, he wants to get students in the day, office workers for lunch, and residents from the west for dinner.
Mr Jeremy Fox, 40, co-owner of Smokey’s BBQ, said he intends to stay and is excited by the new plans. “It’s nice to have someone who is going to do a bit of marketing, branding and cleaning. This whole place has huge potential.”