Seated by the cafe window, my feet rested on the paddle of an old crickety vintage sewing machine, up-cycled to become a trusty table top. Located along a small road where cars and buses constantly whizz by, I take a few quick seconds off my writing to ponder if any of the passer-by wonder why there is someone typing away at the window, with a lighted hair steamer, found in the late 80s, above his head.
CAN Cafe is a hyper eclectic place to soak your soul in nostalgia. Well, for the brave weathered souls, it would be nostalgia by memory, but for the young innocence chilling out here, I would like to think that the old is actually new and fresh to them, like a young child’s first trip to Toy R us, experiencing a new world of existence and possibilities. Owner of the cafe Mr Jeffrey Koh, jokingly mentioned that he managed to prank one teen by telling her that the hundred year-old oven on display is a century old microwave oven when it was a charcoal oven, another innocently asked how to dial a traditional phone with no LCD screen on it.
Jeffrey started CAN Cafe in 1998, right in the middle of the Asian financial crisis. No one believed in his vision and idea. With faith and self belief, he started with zero experience in running a F&B business, relying on his motto that “Strive! And you CAN do it! “. His faith was so strong that he mortgaged his house to get the capital for the business. Time and sweat proved that he was right, breaking even just after 1 year of operations at the first outlet located at Liang Seah Street, Bugis. What was more remarkable was that he did it alone, while his two young daughters and Japanese wife, Yoko was away in Japan. CAN cafe is actually the names of both his daughters, Crystal and Noami combined. After 9years of running CAN cafe at Liang Seah Street, he decided to take a hiatus after rental and business cost soared at much as 60%.
6years after the door closed at Liang Seah Street, CAN Cafe was resurrected at the current Upper Serangoon Road outlet. It took Jeffrey 4years just to find a location with the right vibe. (Took 2years to find the very first outlet). I joked that opening an outlet for him, is pretty much equivalent as the experience of finding a wife, he laugh out in agreement.
The café scene in Singapore has exploded since the first iteration of Can Cafe. While I think most cafes in Singapore “try to be”, Can Café is a place that gives me a feeling of “just be”. Check it out.
Add: 730 Upper Serangoon Road, #01-01 Yeley Building, 534613
Tel: 6396 5561