Tan Boon Hai, founder of Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon chain, dies of heart failure at 51

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SINGAPORE – Mr Tan Boon Hai, founder of the Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon hawker chain, died of heart failure on May 2. He was 51.

Mr Tan, who was diagnosed with ALS – or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – in 2022, grew his parents’ economy bee hoon business from one hawker stall in Yishun to 90 outlets islandwide.

Speaking to Shin Min Daily News at the wake in Yio Chu Kang on May 4, Mr Tan’s partner Huang Suling, 50, said Mr Tan would help his mother at the stall while growing up, honing his culinary skills in the process.

Despite having only secondary school qualifications, Mr Tan was ambitious and wrote down plans for where he wanted to take his parents’ business and how he could achieve his goals.

After completing national service, Mr Tan opened the first Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon stall in Woodlands using money he earned from working at the family business. 

He went on to open three more hawker stalls and even set up a factory to mass-produce chilli sauce, marinades and bee hoon that were used at the various outlets.

According to Shin Min, the late F&B entrepreneur roped in relatives and friends to join his business. In the early 2000s, he was opening three to four new stalls every month.

The business grew exponentially, and he opened 90 stalls in 10 years.

However, he hit a roadblock when he noticed that his left hand getting weak. In February 2022, he was diagnosed with ALS after seeking six different opinions from doctors, reported the Chinese daily.

ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disorder that often begins with muscle twitching and limb weakness. The disease, which has no cure, affects the function of nerves and muscles, including movement, swallowing, speech and breathing.

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