Bye Bye to the Hipster Pasar Santa?

The hipster market at Pasar Santa has always seemed a bit suspect to Unspun. 

When hipster “entrepreneurs” started setting up shops at the upper floor of the badly constructed building, Unspun, made the pilgrimage to have a look at what the fuss was about.

What Unspun found there were a seemingly vibrant atmosphere. Seeming because there were the trappings of youthful energy, creativity and entrepreneurship – a very sexy word these days – mushrooming around the top floor of the largely underused market. There were artisanal coffee shops, ice cream shops all sorts of food that was chic such as black dogs – charcoal infused bread with the usual wiener – retro record shops, handcrafted shoes, T shirts and whatevers. 

You’d be forgiven if you thought you were witnessing nothing less than a Renaissance of Indonesian creativity and entrepreneurship was taking place. 

But if you looked at the spectacle beyond its surface value you see cracks already showing. The layout of the top floor and the shops was ridiculous for a business to do well. The general area was so hot and cramped that hanging out there or browsing through the shops required great willpower to convince yourself that it is a joyful and serendipitous exercise rather than one of masochism. It wasn’t cool, it was just hot. 

The shoplots were also so small that most shopkeepers, especially if they were serving sit down food, could generate the volume to cover their costs. 

Then there are the hipster entrepreneurs. How many of them, you wonder were fueling their misadventure with parents’ money or pooled money from unsuspecting friends. Noting wrong about that per se but if you don’t have a business plan then something’s bound to collapse soon. 

And how many of them had factored in the sacrifices and plain hard work needed if they wanted their business to succeed? Looking at the fresh and moisturized faces of the entrepreuners Unspun’s guess was not many. 

Yet like rats attracted inexorably by the music of the Piper these young hipsters all converged onto Pasar Santa to show off their entrepreneurial flair. 

That was about a year ago. The picture is not so upbeat today. 

Unspun went to Pasar Santa over the weekend to visit Zack and Nila’s Drive Books Not Cars activity and what he encountered was a Pasar Santa with about two thirds of the shops closed – either because the owners couldn’t be bothered to show up for their customers as they were busy for the long weekend, or because the owners had given up the fight and started hanging “For Rent” signs in front of their shoplots. 

Is this another step in the decline of Pasar Santa? Or anothe indictment of the whimsicality of the Jakarta Hipster? Or a testimony of a bigger picture where the youth of today want immediate success but are not willing to work hard at it and make the sacrifices needed to ensure success? 

14 thoughts on “Bye Bye to the Hipster Pasar Santa?

  1. Did you even asked why most of them need to close their shops? Because the rent went too high they can’t afford it. And also because Jl. Woltermonginsidi is a mess right now that makes traffic even crazier. I know some of the entrepreneur at pasar Santa looked like they don’t care if they lost their parents money and have to close their shops. But not all of them are like that. Many are real entrepreneurs that were fighting to stay. But went the rent tripled, they just had to say goodbye. Please always find out the facts before judging and writing about something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Veni, did not say all of them were like that. But enough. Landlords raising the rent when a place is doing well is nothing new. It happened to my in-laws in the 1990s. The family was in tears because of the rent hike. They cried when told about the hike. But after a good cry they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and started again and now they own one one the largest Indonesian fast food chains. Unless I’m wrong I did not see many “We have moved” signs at Pasar Santa. Real entrepreneurs get up each time they are knocked down and become even more determined and better. The rest, like the piggies who went to market, cry boo hoo hoo all the way home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is such an ignorant post, do you know anything about the constant struggle the tenants went through fighting the developers so that EVERY shop even the traditional ones get a fair price? The new or so called “hipster” you mention depend their savings and lives too on their business. They also helped promote the traditional market, and create a system including chipping in to install a cleaner toilet. This is the PD Pasar Jaya’s previous plan to open up a hub for everyone to get a chance on entrepreneurship, because thats what our creative industry needs. Instead, seeing the raging interest the Pasar turned their own words and decided to commercialize it into a property business. And now the tenants have to move else where. At least these people try to make their dreams come true. Get your fucking facts straight before you sit on your lazy ass producing nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting point about how the tenants struggled and chip led in for a toilet. No mean achievements there.

        On my lazy ass: large as they are, I think they have sat in a position where the owner’s business was a startup that has managed to thrive 14 years and employs over 70 people. But that’s the owner, the lazy ass did nothing, not even checked its effing facts and it produced nothing but fartleberries, gas and some solid waste.


  2. The hot air was one of the major issue. Add to that the rocketing rent and a total gridlock traffic from its main acces road and its a timebomb. I wouldnt blame them if the hype gradually fade. Pasar santa is more like a trend and like trend nowadays, it dont last long. For some it was a chance to take a shot and for others its a huge business opportunity and maybe they are planning to expand, or move out somewhere for that matter. However culinary business is a tough industry with 80% failure rate so it mustve take the extra mile for anyone to survive. So kudos to your family 🙂


  3. I’d be stoned by friends in Pasar Santa if I say that indeed the “entrepreneurship” was half-baked in some cases. Yet, the blog post needs balance. It does not take a long research to find out how the developer is playing an unfair game: the more than 10x hike in rent price while Tendean traffic is getting jammed is not “gentrification” – it’s pure greed. And not many of us want to encourage and participate in that game. And the PD Pasar Jaya seems to be powerless. We’ve calculated this to happen since August 2014 and have been trying our best to prevent this. We’ve talked to the officials, we’ve met Ahok, we’ve lobbied with Bekraf, we’ve held open forums, we’ve done petition in Yet, the poor old tenants downstairs are driven out because Developer raise the rent price over ten times, then sold the units to people with more money. We love Pasar Santa, but if the greedy developer is getting the most of the profit then we’d rather let the old tenants to reclaim their places in Pasar Santa (by leaving it, and letting the “market value” goes down again).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing Ve. You brought up an important point that I did not take into account – the rapacity of the developer.

      I am surprised though that a grouping of smart, educated and young people like the ones at Pasar Santa didn’t mount a huge PR offensive, using the media and special events to get the public to rally behind you guys and to pressure the authorities. Things like look good in theory but unless you “exist” largely in cyberspace you, like the officials, are immune to it. I’m curious: why do you think the Pasar Santa entrepreneurs did not mobilise themselves this way.
      As to being stoned: It’s not a bad way to go, if you have to😉. But some candor might help the young entrepreneurs to be more self-aware of what it takes to really succeed.


      1. Indeed we did not bring up the entire problems behind Pasar Santa to the social media. So many things to consider. And if we evaluate ourselves – the new, “hip” tenants in Pasar Santa – it is obvious that we don’t always share the same vision. Some of us were in Pasar Santa to revive a dying traditional pasar and make it an example for other pasars to replicate. Others were there simply to sell – which was okay. But this means we have different agendas. And when problems come we also have different reactions. When I was invited to speak about Pasar Santa in seminars I always say that Pasar Santa is a mere case study, not a success story. Well, the point is: I am grateful for the blog post you have published for many reasons. I simply want to share another side of the story. But my side is also only one of the many in this rather complicated situation. I’d say we have to wait until the traffic around Tendean and Pasar Santa gets sorted out, and see who will be still surviving and how the game will be restarted.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pernah beberapa kali ke Santa, pernah denger juga crita awal Santa jadi rame.
    Menurut saya fenomena Santa sesederhana sebuah trend , “hip” atau “buble”. Cepat atau lambat akan selesai dan pecah juga.

    Tetapi akan muncul juga survivor yang semakin besar dan looser yang akan tersingkir, dengan atau tanpa atribut Santa.

    Sesimple itu.

    Bagi yang memang mempertaruhkan hidup dan passion nya di usaha yang dikerjakan pasti akan terus bertahan dan berkembang mungkin, sementara yang setengah hati, trendy, dan hipster cepat atau lambat juga akan tutup dengan sendirinya.

    Santa sebagai pasar sendiri filosofinya tetap tidak jauh beda layaknya mall , atau area yang disewakan secara komersial, bila ingin bertahan tentunya harus bisa membawa keuntungan bagi 3 pilar penopangnya , pengelola ( landlord atau apalah itu sampai ke tukang parkir ) , penyewa ( tenant ) dan pengunjung.
    Selama benefit bagi ke 3 pilar tersebut tidak berimbang, maka usaha apapun yang dilakukan diluar tujuan meningkatkan benefit secara berimbang bagi 3 pilar tersebut akan sia – sia , hanya idealisme kosong ke hipster an.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Finally, the effing hype is over..
    I guess I could jump in to fill the space they’d left out then..
    Oops, I still need to finalize my variable cost & FoH cost though..
    Aaaaaand, not to mention I also still haven’t do a stress-test to my calculation yet..


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