If you were thinking a visit to Mustafa Centre was all about a huge store full of Indian products and spices, think again. The Mustafa Centre is a mega discount department and grocery store. A cult favorite in the Singaporean shopping scene and rarely seen without a bustling crowd. It’s the best place to go if you’re after a bargain or enjoy shopping into the twilight hours. Mustafa is not fancy in the same way as other Singaporean malls, but it sure packs a punch and is proud of its ‘no haggle, just best prices’ policy. The question you need to ask yourself is not what can you buy at Mustafa, but rather what you can’t buy. You can wander from clothes to perfume to toiletries to souvenirs. Top up on medical supplies, groceries and household goods and more across the store’s six levels of enticing things you never thought you needed.
A Little History
Mustafa has seen impressive growth since it started out in 1971 as a tiny shop front on Campbell Street, selling ready-made garments. Two years later in 1973, Mr. Mustaq Ahmad moved to a larger 900sq.ft. shop space along Serangoon Road where electronics were added to their growing list of offerings, products and services. A second shop next door to the first was rented to accommodate growing customer demand, along with introducing more product variety. In 1985, the Singapore government acquired both of these shops for conservation purposes. Ahmad considered several areas to move his thriving business and decided on Serangoon Plaza. Many thought this was a courageous decision due to the size of the location – he rented 40,000sq.ft. on the ground floor of the plaza and opened for business soon after.
This bold move became an instant success and more space was rented within the Plaza. Ahmad quickly took over old shophouses along Syed Alwi Road which were reasonably priced and not far from his store. Eventually he had purchased all the available shophouses near the Plaza and two years later decided to go ahead to build his own building. In April 1995, Mustafa Centre became a reality and immediately became a shopping paradise to many people. On any given weekend, the store packs in over 15,000 customers of all nationalities and countries.
Best visited by public transport due to limited parking options, the Mustafa Centre is situated within walking distance from Farrer MRT. Once in the store, customers are provided with over 300,000 items displayed on six levels covering an area of 400,000sq.ft, 24 hours a day. The business concept of offering other services such as foreign exchange, travel, a restaurant and even a hotel has helped in contributing to the growth of the business. All these customer-related services under one roof have made Mustafa a regular shopping site for locals and a must-visit destination for tourists who appreciate the store as a diversion from their jet lag, especially at night.
Shopping at Mustafa is a fantastically unique experience, but be prepared to get bumped and jostled to get through the crowds as you investigate this wonderland of merchandise. Getting lost can feel a little unnerving as you wind through corridors and sections connected to each other by escalators and lifts that don’t seem to take you where you think, but that’s all part of it. The moment you surrender to the seeming chaos you’ll relax into just going with the flow and drinking in the activity around you.
The local produce and supermarket on level two is always a treat and the prices are very reasonable. The health and bathing products on level one are also well worth taking a look at as trolleys over-flowing with your favorite sandalwood soap or deodorant are wheeled around by shop assisants. On the same floor, you can marvel at the pharmacy where a huge range of medicines – some identifiable, some not – can be sold across the counter in small strips for all sorts ailments.
Two items that the Mustafa Centre that have high levels of trade in are gold and money. The ground floor, recently refurbished at the Serangoon Road side, is home to an incredibly large display of rows and rows of gold jewelry as far as the eye can see. The rates are reasonably priced and pieces are highly prized. The Money Exchange center has also been refurbished and it's one of the busiest changers in Singapore. Rates are said to be some of the most competitive on the island and is open around the clock to accommodate early risers and late departers.
If you are feeling hungry, snacks can be found on the outer side of the building café serving local tea and coffee. If you need something a little more upmarket, take the elevator to the top floor and visit the restaurant to enjoy some good South Asian food.
No matter what your plans cover in Singapore, make sure you don’t leave town without a trip to Mustafa. It is well worth the effort.
Taxi: 145 Syed Alwi Road Mustafa Centre, Singapore 207704 Little India
Buses: 21, 125 and 130 (Walk 4 mins from bus stop B07231).
Nearest MRT station: Farrer Park MRT (NE8) (Walk 3 mins from Exit G)
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
If you don’t like the crowds, try anytime before 10:30am.
The peak times are around afternoon and evenings so be prepared. If you have young children be aware as its easy for them to wander off in the large store and many aisles.
Basement 1 & 2: Menswear, Women’s wear, Office wear, Sportswear, Shoes, Bags and Accessories. Sports Equipment, Luggage and Home Appliances.
Level 1: Gold, Silver, Jewelry, Watches, Mobile phones, Cameras, Electrical Gadgets, Music & Film CDs, VCDs, DVDs, Sunglasses, Medical Equipment, Medicinal items, Perfumes, Cosmetics and Toiletries
Level 2: Supermarket level, Chocolates, Sweets, Souveniers, Silks, Baby items, Storage, Household Goods
Level 3: Kitchenware, BedSheets, Blankets, Curtains and Home Decorations (Link between buildings)
Level 4: Furniture, DIY Section, Books and Stationary
Level 5: Restaurant
Annette Lang arrived in Singapore in 2002. She fell in love with the culture, food and the easy and safe lifestyle that is essentially Singapore. A freelance writer, sports enthusiast and food marketing consultant, who is a passionate supporter of cooking, teaching and of course tasting, it was no wonder that she opened a culinary cooking school – Expat Kitchen, now in operation for 10 years.
Photo by Katie Baines
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