Behind a block of low-cost flats in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, a group of students make their way towards a drinks stall, holding books and files over their heads to shield themselves from the heat of the noonday sun.
Laughing and chatting, they hurry towards the inviting shade of the yellow hut with its crinkled zinc roof.
“Pakcik Huri, teh o ais, please,” they chime, digging in their wallets in search of RM1 bills – for at Huri Teh Tarik Dangdut, RM1 is all they need to buy an icy cold drink of sweet tea after school.
For 20 years now, Huri, officially Mohd Zabri Abdul Mukti, has been selling drinks at this price, catering to generations of students as well as other customers who come flocking to his stall throughout the day.
For him, work begins at 6am when he opens his stall and sets to making batches of drinks in preparation for the day ahead.
At 7am sharp, he begins receiving customers who come in steady streams until late at night.
By his estimate, he sells about 2,000 drinks each day, half of which are iced tea.
“Ten jugs of tea can vanish in the blink of an eye,” he said in an interview with MalaysiaNow.
“In under two hours, it’s all gone. Someone comes and orders three drinks, another person orders five. And that isn’t taking into account the rest of the drinks,” he added.
Secret to success
His secret to success all these years has been maintaining the price of his drinks.
At other stalls and restaurants, a bag of iced tea can sell for RM2 or even RM2.20 each. At Huri’s stall, though, the price of teh o ais is fixed at RM1, and the most expensive drink – Nescafe ais – goes for RM2.60.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Huri said he considers the quantity of drinks more important than the price at which they are sold.
“If I charge RM1 but can only sell 1,000 drinks a day, I have made RM1,000,” he said.
“If I raise my prices, fewer customers will come. How will I be able to keep going then?”
Throughout his years at the stall, he discovered that teh o ais was a crowd favourite, followed by teh ais, teh tarik, Nescafe ais and iced lime juice.
“About 80% of the people who come are here to buy teh o ais,” he said.
The exact proportions of ingredients are a secret known only to himself and his workers.
Excluding the cost of goods such as sugar, ice, plastic bags and straws, Huri makes about RM30,000 a month.
Every day, between 70 and 80 bags of ice are delivered to his small shop.
“Sugar, I used to buy 10g a week but now I have had to increase it to 25kg,” he added.
Huri has four workers, two of whom work the morning shift and two others who work at night.
Even when it rains, customers continue to come in droves.
Some come from outside of Petaling Jaya, from as far off as Klang and Kuala Lumpur. He has also received catering orders from big companies like Tenaga Nasional Bhd.
When asked about the story behind his stall’s name, Huri stopped to laugh before answering.
He said he had always loved dangdut music, and spent much of his youth dancing and singing at dangdut clubs.
“I never went for anything inappropriate,” he added, still laughing. “I just went to dance.”
After he got married and settled down, though, Huri stopped going to clubs and started thinking about how to make a steady income.
“Before I opened this stall, I was a chauffeur,” he said. “After I finished work, I would sell drinks. After a while, I stopped driving altogether.
“When people come to my shop, they ask, ‘Where is Huri?’ My workers say, ‘Dangdut.’ That’s how it came to be known as Huri Teh Tarik Dangdut.”