In The Passenger Seat: Ana Fong, A Kombination of Old meets New

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Ana Fong (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

"Change is the only constant" That mentality is very evident in Ms Ana Fong, the fourth-generation successor to, and general manager of Tong Heng Delicacies as she shares the interesting stories on the popular bakery and how their famous Volkswagen Kombi came to be.

Tong Heng Bakery is a 100-year-old family bakery that is located in Chinatown, and although they are best known for their delicious diamond-shaped egg tarts, they are also represented by their revamped Volkswagen Kombi. It's often seen at different events and is a huge part of their branding as Ms Ana Fong says that the two are "from the same era that have evolved."

She recalls some of her experiences with her Volkswagen Kombi:

What is the story behind your Volkswagen Kombi? Does the Kombi give you a sense of nostalgia?

This Volkswagen was bought by my paternal aunt who’s also my boss. (She thought) Owning a vintage vehicle would be nice and yes, it certainly brings a sense of nostalgia.

You got your Kombi customised?

Volkswagen Kombi Tong Heng (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

Tobias, another Kombi enthusiast, was the person who helped us with the customisation for our Kombi. He did all the work and liaising for the car.

Is there a meaning behind this customisation?

Tong Heng Interior (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

We find that both Tong Heng and the Kombi in a way have evolved from the same era. So we started by using the Tong Heng corporate colours for the Kombi. Therefore, the meaning behind this customisation is that the Kombi is much like Tong Heng, both have their bit of history and needed to evolve and revamp, which they did! We also used the Kombi to launch our souvenir range of cookies last November.

How did you find a Kombi to customise in Singapore? Was it a struggle?

Tong Heng Kombi
(Photo Credit:@supericecreamtruck)

Yes. According to Tobias Peng, it's hard to find a Kombi that is in relatively good as-is condition to restore as we needed to source overseas for an original piece and a suitable candidate as most of the classic vehicles had to be imported from overseas.

If it was not viewed physically, it may be hard to see finer details like rust spots, mechanical problems and so on. The finer touches ultimately, were done in Singapore.

It is quite a struggle these days in our modern economy as it would be harder for us to find workshops that would know how to do up these vehicles due to lack of knowledge , experience and also it can be more time consuming to complete as compared to modern cars. A lot in this trade are retiring and hence leaving just a handful of young bloods.

What do your friends and family think of the Kombi?

Volkswagen Kombi (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

Everybody who sees the Kombi loves it, from family members to friends to customers to passers-by. Most would take pictures of it.

How does it feel driving the Kombi around?

To be honest, I have yet to find the time to go behind the wheel yet. It is usually driven by my brother although we (myself and my boss/aunt) all are more used to driving a stick shift rather than an auto transmission.

Do you feel that this Kombi is an achievement for Tong Heng Delicacies?

I find that it is more like a complement than an achievement. Both the brand and the Kombi complement each other very well as said previously, both are two things from the same era that have evolved.

You seem to like to modernise old things, as seen by the Tong Heng revamp and also your Kombi, what is your thought process regarding this?

Tong Heng Entrance (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

The Volkswagen Kombi, much like Tong Heng are brands which bring fond memories of the past. I like and wanted to be able to represent them with a look that is relevant and appealing to this age for the millennials and zillenials (Generation Z).

How long have you been working at Tong Heng?

It is coming to ten years I suppose since I’ve rejoined the family business.

Do you take pride in such an accomplished family business

Tong Heng Pastry (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

Yes, very much. We use to just have mainly customers in their 40s and above patronising us. Today, after our re-branding that makes us more connected with a broader audience, our customers’ age group has expanded from zillenials to seniors.

Would you say the Kombi is part of Tong Heng Delicacies’s branding?

We started the rebranding way before I meet Tobias.

If you weren’t driving the Kombi, what car would you drive? New or Vintage.

Tong Heng Volkswagen Kombi (Photo Credit:@supericecreamtruck)

This Kombi is using a vintage and classic car-plate so we are only given 45 days out of 365. Therefore, right now we are using it mainly for roadshows and various events. However for myself, I drive a basic hatchback that is able to take me from point to point.

Would you sell Egg Tarts out of your Kombi?

Tong Heng Cookies (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

We’ve yet to try selling egg tarts out of the Kombi, but so far we have done so with cookies for Tong Heng.

How do you maintain your Kombi? i.e. regular checks, car washes.

We normally send it for a regular bi-annual check at a workshop.

You only have a limited number of days to drive a classic car in a year, when do you choose to drive it?

You’ll only pretty much see the Tong Heng Kombi during an event or roadshows because we can only drive it 45/365 days because it uses a vintage and classic car-plate.

I heard that an uncle in your family used to bring the family for picnics in a Kombi. Can you tell us more about that story?

Volkswagen Kombi And Aunts (Photo Credit: @tonghengsg)

I have spoken to my aunt/boss about the uncle who took the family for picnics in a Kombi. Indeed there was but he was not from our family. He was a neighbour who treated my aunties like his daughters. More often that uncle would go for a ride together with his daughter.

Do you have any upcoming events where we may spot it?

Due to COVID 19, many events and plans that Tong Heng planned have been pushed back till further notice or even cancelled. That’s a shame. We wanted to do events which relates to the brand. Like the last one we had was the launch of a range of cookies.

If you're in need of some fantastic diamond shape egg tarts to satisfy your cravings? Check out Tong Heng Delicacies on their in Instagram, Facebook and Website!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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