By and large, coffee shops aren’t usually that... large.
Most cafés you’ll visit are probably small to medium in size. That characteristic cocooning atmosphere possessed by most good coffee shops is usually easier achieved in tighter confines. Like anything else, however, there are exceptions.
And Wheeler’s Yard is a big exception.
Situated down Lor Ampas in the sepia-toned neighborhood of Balestier, Wheeler’s Yard is a giant of a coffee shop the likes of which you’d be hard-pressed to find in Singapore. Making a home out of an old warehouse—a relic of the country’s 20th-century production era—the space is split between a glass-lined café area and a bicycle atelier. Inside and outside the café, it’s plain to see that these two-wheelers are the stars of the show.
Stepping into the café, the first thing your eyes are drawn to is bound to be the installation of bicycle frames sitting above the espresso bar. Second, all the bicycles that litter the shop—they’re on the walls, the tables, and even the railings. Then, of course, there’s the sheer size of the space—no pushing and shoving for seats come lunch hour here. Industrious in look and feel, the shop clearly reflects the warehouse’s bicycle production line past.
Wheeler’s Yard is the brainchild of Tommy Ong, who first had the idea of making a coffee shop of his own when the third wave coffee scene first hit Singaporean shores some six years ago. At the time, his family’s warehouse served as a bicycle assembly line, yet he was sure he would be able to create a coffee shop unlike any other with the space. Having lived in Australia and New Zealand, Tommy was no stranger to well-made coffee. The fact that he had a coffee roaster neighbor while in Middle-earth had probably made him accustomed to the smell of wafting coffee, too.
Judging by the crowds, Tommy has succeeded. Initially seeking out a young, social media-happy crowd, today, Wheeler’s Yard is a favorite amongst white-collars at lunch and families during weekends—not that attracting people was ever a difficult feat, to begin with. The pale blue barn doors facing the road make for a fantastic photo background that has graced many an Instagram feed since the shop’s opening. Some people even make the trek just for the perfect picture.
Back inside, the café serves reliable brunch favorites alongside tasty coffee—from Tommy’s Kiwi neighbor! Now that’s one way to keep neighborly relations alive after moving away. Eating and coffee-drinking aren’t the only activities encouraged at Wheeler’s Yard, however. Customers can also rent bikes by the hour to explore the neighborhood and the park connector behind the shop, and even rent the space itself for weddings, product launches, or company workshops. In any case, whether you visit for the coffee or for its out of the way surroundings, you won’t fail to be delighted.
Thank you Mr. Tommy Ong for taking the time to talk to me about your lovely shop!