Polar Café



Polar Puffs & Cakes is a food manufacturer and operator of a confectionary chain best known for its curry puffs.1 Originally known as Polar Café, Hong Kong immigrant Chan Hinky began running the business from 1926.2 The first Polar Café, a landmark on High Street, opened in November 1925. It was popular with the expatriate community as well as politicians and lawyers working in the area.3 Polar Café was one of the few businesses that remained open during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45).4 As at 2016, Polar Puffs & Cakes has 29 outlets as well as two manufacturing facilities in Singapore.5

History
Polar Café opened on 30 November 1925 as an annex of Lim Yew Chye & Sons on High Street.6 Chan, who arrived in Singapore in the 1920s, began running the business from 1926.7 Advertisement notices published between October and November 1926 show that the first Polar Café was briefly under the management of Luna Café.8


In the years before the war, Polar Café was popular mainly with the expatriate community and wealthy merchants.9 The establishment was famous for its signature curry puffs as well as a selection of ice-cream and chilled refreshments.10 Chan’s wife, Shum Shui Yu,11 had learnt the curry puff recipe from a friend.12

During the Japanese Occupation, Polar Café was one of the few businesses that remained in operation.13 Chan passed away in 1942 and thereafter his wife left the operations of the café to their two eldest sons.14 After the war, High Street became known as one of the most fashionable shopping streets in Singapore, especially after department store Metro opened its first outlet in the vicinity. Polar’s business flourished, with both regular customers and shoppers visiting the store.15 Their customers included lawyers and politicians who worked in the nearby Supreme Court and Parliament House.16 Seen as a trendy spot, the café was also popular among students and youths.17

In January 1986, Polar Café closed after the government acquired its premises on High Street to expand the Parliament House. However, the company revived in December that same year, unveiling a new takeaway outlet in OUB Centre at Raffles Place and opened a new factory on Leng Kee Road. Business continued to flourish and the company’s turnover for 1987 hit S$1.6 million.18 In 1998, Polar Café was renamed Polar Puffs & Cakes. That same year, Polar also acquired a factory in Woodlands and relocated its head office there.19

Recent activities
Polar undertook rebranding exercises in 2003 and 2009, expanding their product line and marketing their traditional products as part of a lifestyle campaign. The product expansion included foods marketed at the health-conscious as well as cartoon-themed cakes for children. These moves helped the company open at least 10 new takeaway outlets between 2003 to 2005.20 In 2006, Polar Puffs and Cakes was reported to have over 100 varieties of pastries and cakes, from their signature curry puffs to newer additions such as the black pepper crab puff.21


Awards
In 2005, Polar was named a “Heritage Brand” by the Singapore Prestige Brand Award for being in operation for over three decades. The company was also conferred the Singapore Promising Brand Award by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises that year. In 2006, Polar celebrated its 80th anniversary, and was recognised as one of the strongest local brands, gaining the “Superbrands” title.22



Author

Esther Wang Ying Jie




References
1. Tan, Y. H. (2008, January 6). Polar has something to puff about. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chia, M. (1987, December 20). A grand old lady dons new clothes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p .416. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Hoe, I. (1986, January 15). Polar Café closes shop. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tan, J. (Ed.). (2009). Superbrands. Volume IV: An insight into many of Singapore’s strongest brands. Singapore: SB Asia Pte Ltd, pp. 72–73. (Call no.: RSING 658.827095957 SUP)
5. Polar Puffs & Cakes. (n.d.). Store locations. Retrieved 2016, May 29 from Polar Puffs & Cakes website: http://www.polarpuffs-cakes.com/store; Polar Puffs & Cakes. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved 2016, May 29 from Polar Puffs & Cakes website: http://www.polarpuffs-cakes.com/our-story
6. Page 6 advertisements column 3. (1925, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 6; Page 7 advertisements column 4. (1925, October 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Polar Puffs & Cakes. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved 2016, May 29 from Polar Puffs & Cakes website: http://www.polarpuffs-cakes.com/our-story
8. Page 7 advertisements column 2. (1926, October 15). The Straits Times, p. 7; Page 16 advertisements column 5. (1926, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, J. (Ed.). (2009). Superbrands. Volume IV: An insight into many of Singapore’s strongest brands. Singapore: SB Asia Pte Ltd, pp. 72–73. (Call no.: RSING 658.827095957 SUP)
10. Page 5 advertisements column 4. (1926, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 5; Page 1 advertisements column 1. (1927, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Page 40 advertisements column 1. (1993, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Polar matriarch dies of cancer at 90. (1993, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
14. Polar matriarch dies of cancer at 90. (1993, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Leong, W. K. (2006, July 30). Eighty years and it’s no puff. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. A grand old lady dons new clothes. (1987, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chua, C. H. J. (1996, May 14). Oral history interview with Khoo Kay Chai (Dr) [Transcript of MP3 recording no. 001744/18/5, p. 73]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
18. A year later, the proof is in the puff. (1987, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, W. K. (2006, July 30). Eighty years and its no puff. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Polar Puffs & Cakes. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved 2016, May 29 from Polar Puffs & Cakes website: http://www.polarpuffs-cakes.com/our-story
20. Chan, F. (2005, September 20). Household brands keep up with the times. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Gan, E. (2006, August 5). Flavours Singapore. Today, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Polar Puffs & Cakes. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved 2016, May 29 from Polar Puffs & Cakes website: http://www.polarpuffs-cakes.com/our-story



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Business enterprises
Corporations--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale
Coffeehouses--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises