Four friends who met in primary school banded together to form an unlikely dream — starting a hawker business.
Walking into Ci Yuan Hawker Centre at Hougang, smells of various kinds of food greets you immediately. With 40 different stalls, the hawker centre does not lack variety.
Tucked away in the corner, a modern-looking stall with a brightly lit LED sign that changes colours constantly catches the attention immediately. The stall name is called Brostern — a play on the words ‘brother’ and ‘western’.
A halal Western fusion stall, Brostern was created by four friends who first met in primary school.
While it is common to hear of friends from primary school drifting apart from each other, it is not the case for Roimy Kassim, Khairul Sulaiman, Rully Romally and Faliq Ahmad. The quartet have known each other since they were in Primary three and their friendship is “as strong as ever”.
Roimy, 27, said that the idea of Brostern started when Rully asked him to run a business during the current COVID-19 affected season. Rully also had the idea of roping in Khairul and Faliq.
“The main thing that we got [going for us] is that the four of us actually stuck together [all these years after primary school]. We kept in contact quite often, so our bond is what we brought over here.
“We want to keep it that way from primary school till now… we want to have that bond of us working together,” said Roimy.
Starting a business wasn’t simple though. They had to discuss the location of the stall, their menu and cuisine, and most importantly, their budget and finances.
“Believe it or not, (Ci Yuan Hawker Centre) is the first place that we actually found. Subsequently, we had better offers but the place was just not right,” explained Roimy.
“We stuck with this place because Hougang is our hometown — our primary school, Yio Chu Kang Primary School, is nearby. We used to stay here. We have friends and relatives staying here… we’ve got a good amount of support in this area.”
In order to save on their expenditure, the team got their family members to help with design and marketing work. They also had to be smart with their supplies and equipment purchases in order to keep selling their dishes at affordable prices.
Working well with your colleagues is essential and for the quartet, it feels like they are cheating the system since they have been close friends since young. But mixing business and friendships can be a total nightmare too.
Thankfully, the four friends at Brostern have a balanced dynamic that works well both in and out of business. The brotherly love among the four friends is obvious, judging from their interactions with each other.
Every first Tuesday of the month, the Brostern brothers ensure they take a day to appreciate and spend time with their families together.
Of course, arguments are inevitable, but the quartet always ensure they deal with the matter and overcome it without letting it affect their friendships.
Khairul stated: “When it comes to business, it’s business. When it comes to friends, it’s friends. We need to understand each other from there. At the start, we already thought about it, because our friendship may turn haywire when (mixed with) business.
“We promised each other that since we knew (each other) when (we were) small, there’s no point arguing about certain things. Everybody needs to understand one another… our friendship is worth much more than this business.”
Roimy admitted: “We do have arguments… but one thing about us is that when we know someone is not happy, by hook or by crook we will settle it by the end of the day. We clear everything out and make sure everything is back to normal because I cannot be running a place where I have anything against you.”
While Western cuisine tends to be on the pricier side, Brostern ensures that their food is affordable for everyone.
From traditional Western dishes like carbonara pasta to fusion specials such as the sambal beef hotdog, Brostern provides meals that are sure to excite yet also fill you with a sense of familiarity – all for $6 and below.
“I think our best dish is the Volcano Burg. Usually people will go for that, [especially those] who love to eat cheese. We make the patty, marination and everything else from scratch. And then, we drench the burger with cheese.”
For those who have a more particular taste and prefer customising what they eat, Brostern also provides ‘make your own meals’. Customers can choose their base of pasta or rice, one of the five sauces provided, the meat of their choice and two sides – all for just $6.
If you are coming with a larger group of people, there is the Brostern Ambeng which consists of fish and chips, chicken cutlet, chicken chop, john tarik, aglio olio pasta, buttered rice, fries, garlic bread and coleslaw. For just $35, this delicious food platter is sure to satisfy everyone..
Brostern is located at 51 Hougang Ave 9, #01-39 Ci Yuan Community Centre, Singapore 538776. It is also available for food delivery, via GrabFood.
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