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Fountain Ice cream in Medan

About wood trading, dancing, bread baking and ice creams

Text: Dirk A. Buiskool PhD

The city of Medan on Sumatra is a booming town. This is evident in the ubiquitous high rise buildings, new hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and the highly unorganized traffic. It is a prosperous, although rather chaotic city, with intense trade connections within Southeast Asia and beyond. Within the many new luxurious shopping malls and shopping centres, there is one restaurant which is conspicuously present. This is the Medan based Fountain Ice Cream company. At the moment there are twelve Fountain shops in Medan. You wonder, how can there be so many, who is behind this ice cream business?

The family who established Fountain Ice Cream originated from China. It was Tan Ah Sie, who came in the 1920s with his wife and four children from Shenhui in Canton  province, China, to Medan, where he continued his profession as tukang kayu (carpenter).They lived in the Old Market, in Chinese the Lau Pasat, nowadays called the Jalan Hindu/Perdana. Tan Ah Sie worked hard and earned enough money to support his family and send his children to school. The fourth son Tan Tek Mao, born in 1928, remembered how he went to the Hwa Siong Chinese school of Khoe Tjin Tek nearby, where the lessons were taught in English and Mandarin. Tan Tek Mao had pleasant memories about this school and his youth in the 1930s in Medan. But this changed when the Japanese invaded Medan in March 1942. Then he saw how the Japanese beheaded five people. The five heads were put on a wall in the Jalan Hakka (Jalan Nusantara) in front of the Medan bioscope. The Japanese were cruel and everybody was afraid. One day he and a few of his family members were caught and beaten up by the Kempetai, theJapanese police, after a Japanese warehouse was found to be ransacked. Tan Tek Mao felt it as a big relief when the Japanese left Medan in 1945.


For secondary education Tan Tek Mao went to the Chinese Su Tung School. After he had finished his schooling he established around 1950 a timber business, called Daratan Baru, in the Jalan Kereta Api, besides the railway. He didn’t have the money and got the starting capital through his brother and friends. The business flourished and after some time he even had a small factory for wood sawing. In those days Tan Tek Mao loved to go dancing. Around 1953 he started a dancing club named Silver Star. This was made possible due to the money he had made from his timber company. The club became a big success as it was the only dancing club in Medan. The dancing club was located in a building at the Jalan Pandu, opposite theWaspadaNewspaper.

Sawing machines

Afterwards, Tan Tek Mao started a third business. It was a shop in wood working spare parts which he financed for a cousin who operated the business. The idea to open this shop came from his brother’s son, and just like Tan Tek Mao’s brother helped him in the earlier years, he now supported his cousin. This shop in spare parts was located in Jalan Bogor (Jalan Tjong Yong Hian), named Waja Intan. Three businesses were proved insufficient to Tan Tek Mao and he consequently started a bakery in the 1970s. This time it was his brother in law, doctor Arief Hermansyah, who suggested to get into the bakery business. In Jakarta there were many bakeries named Holland Bakery making the real whole wheat brown bread, but to buy the franchise was expensive. This whole wheat bread was not available in Medan. As Arief Hermansyah and Tan Tek Mao still wanted to use the name Holland Bakery they added Royal in front and in this way did not need to buy the franchise. Royal Holland Bakery was founded in 1976 in Jalan Taruma in Medan. A specialist baker from the Netherlands came to teach them how to make whole wheat brown bread without preservatives. Soon the brown bread was well known all over Medan and surroundings.

Ice creams

Twelve years after Royal Holland Bakery they added another activity, this time the ice cream business. Tan Tek Mao’s son Muliaman Tanmalano established together with his wife Liong Lai Tjin, Fountain Ice Cream in 1988. It was a daughter company of Royal Holland bakery.The name Fountain was chosen as it started with an F, just as the eldest son’s name Faries, and it consisted of eight letters, which should give good luck according to the Buddhist believe. The first ice cream parlour was above the bakery of Royal Holland. Soon after they opened a small ice cream shop in the newly opened Deli Plaza shopping mall. As the ice cream parlour in Deli Plaza was a success, they started a second one in Perizai Plaza in 1990. For the second shop they joined with Tokyo textile department store in Perizai Plaza. The profit they made with the ice cream was shared via a percentage with Tokyo Department Store. The same story was repeated with Yuki Department Store in Deli Plaza. Then the icecream business became so succesful that afterwards they directed rented the locations. Hereafter followed over the years new ice cream parlors in other shopping malls and locations like in Medan Plaza, Thamrin Plaza, Medan Fair and also in Banda Aceh. In 2013 Muliaman Tanmalano passed away, his wife continued the business together with her son Fahrun. A year later, in 2014, Tan Tek Mao passed away. In spite of these sad events the company expanded. Nowadays Fountain Ice Cream, Café and Restaurant has twelve branches with over 500 employees.