Pasar Santa: The ‘Wet Market’ That Attracts the Hip Crowd

Story By
Diana Tri Wulandari

Girls with stylish petticoats and high heels, dapper looking boys, expatriate families, fashionable couples,  seen walking in, out and around the maze of an otherwise traditional pasar in Cipaku, South Jakarta, eager to find what store is around the corner. What’s going on and what’s so special about this Pasar?

Seven years after its major renovation in 2007, only a handful of shops in Santa are occupied, mostly by tailors, fresh produce vendors, and basic supply stores that have been there for tens of years. Until in May 2014, when ABCD (A Bunch of Caffeine Dealers) Coffee, which consists of trainer and certified Barista Championship judge Hendri Kurniawan and coffee enthusiast Ve Handojo, decided to open up a small workshop in the nearly empty second floor of the market, where they started giving classes and occasionally brewed limited amount of coffee for friends. Handojo admits that the decision to open up the shop in the market was mainly because of its location and the very affordable rent. Soon, with ABCD’s strong online presence through its #ngopidipasar (having coffee in the market) hashtag, the words quickly spread. Fast forward to the end of 2014, most of second floor is fully occupied and by early this year, most of them are already open for business, attracting young crowds from all over Jakarta to experience the Pasar Santa hype. Is it really just hype?

Many consider Pasar Santa as the hipster market, with reinvented food, brands, typeface & design-conscious shops. It is also undoubtedly a gentrification of a nearly abandoned traditional market in Jakarta’s upscale Kebayoran Baru. Whatever you want to label it, it is the creative entrepreneurs’ way of finding a solution— if not a cry for help— for an affordable business space; because to open up a business in Jakarta, especially in South Jakarta where Pasar Santa is located, means to invest a phenomenal amount of money just in rent. 

Cheap lots like Santa enable tenants like Sarah Diana, owner and the main engine behind Roti Eneng, to still keep her day job and opens up her homemade bread shop on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Roti Eneng is not the only one. Many of the new Pasar Santa’s tenants keep very flexible (sometimes random) opening hours. Not much of a problem for the young visitors because a lot of these shops are hard-wired to their Instagram accounts, which are regularly cross-promoted by Pasar Santa’s instagram account, @pasarsanta.  

Students, seasoned entrepreneurs, senior citizens, designers, writers; the new Pasar Santa tenants are people from all walks of life. As you stroll down the alleys, you would find it hard to believe that most of the shops have just been opened for not more than 5 months. For the visitors, it is definitely a break from the overly-saturated malls as a shopping, eating and meeting place. This is a place where you can actually hang out and get to meet new people.

Food stalls, pop-up art galleries, record stores, book shops, clothing store to shoe-cleaning services, Pasar Santa showcases creative entrepreneurship in bite sizes.  Papricano, a Mexican food stall, is one of the newly-opened food vendor that attracts the most crowds, offering Mexican street grubs like burritos, tacos, and some hard to find drinks in Jakarta like Horchata, or even the simple Aqua Fresca. Ace of Face, offers very affordable haircut in a clean and air conditioned 2x2 m space. For Rp. 25,000, Mr. Iwan— the main and only barber— will do you all sort of trendy haircuts and, will even give you head massages for the price! Opposite to the barber, you can find the aforementioned ABCD Coffee that offers from appreciation classes to full Barista classes—with professional espresso machines— ranging from Rp. 500,000 to Rp. 5 million.

On weekends, the second level, where the most popular tenants are located, can be overwhelming. When it gets too hot and humid, head down to ground floor where the air is circulated better and some interesting shops can also be found like Bake Inc., who sells scrumptious baked goods and custom cakes. Located right near the east entrance, Tumbul Vintages stocks Indonesian vintage and retro item, whilst Le Petit Printil, curates and sells flea market vintage items hauled all the way from France. Not to mention the numerous music stores that sells the nearly forgotten vinyl records and players. High Fidelity Records, Antique Lab, Laidback Blues, and Ragtime Record are just to name a few. There are new shops opening every week, so it’s best for you to see for yourself what’s in store. 

If you decided to come, here are some tips that might come in handy:  (1) Avoid taking a car, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The parking space is definitely scarce and hence, a nightmare to park in. The same goes with the traffic around the area too; (3) Come hungry and bring enough cash. Although some tenants are now equipped with EDC, most transactions are still in cash. And trust me, you will nibble! (2) Wear something comfortable; although there have been more fans installed and some stores install ACs, Pasar Santa in general is not air-conditioned and thus can be really muggy. But honestly, isn’t that the fun of going to a pasar