With a dash of urban greenery and an atmosphere heavy with nostalgia, a new roof top pop-up market located in a seven-decades-old building will return on May 7-8, offering locally made products and a unique shopping experience.
Located to the southeast of Wat Phnom, the pop-up market is housed in the historic Pteah Chas building on St 110. It features locally made and green products that are sure to attract expats and Cambodians alike as they enjoy shopping, sipping cold beverages and viewing the art exhibition that will be on display featuring both local and international contributors.
Hem Chan Sopheak – who founded the Pteah Chas community – has hosted three rooftop pop-up market events there already.
“The idea for starting this rooftop pop-up market came to me after I had been to other events like the Odom Farmers Market and the market organised by the Friends NGO,” he tells The Post.
The 30-year-old social-entrepreneur earned a degree in agronomy at the Royal University of Agriculture and then an MA in development studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
He’s set out to work with other like-minded socially aware entrepreneurs and together they’ve formed a community at Pteah Chas, one which led to the rooftop market taking off.
“During the pandemic, the idea of doing a rooftop market was very good because the open air environment is deemed a safer venue for preventing the spread of Covid-19,” Sopeak says. “We think that we should make the best use of this charming building to connect our community business with other like-minded ones.”
Sopeak says that participants can showcase their local or environmentally friendly wares at the market while engaging in a bit of old-fashioned social networking – done face-to-face with handshakes and business cards or just by striking up friendly conversations.
“This is also a good opportunity to gather together creative small businesses and newly established enterprises to work with in addition to the six existing small businesses that are already a part of our Pteah Chas Community,” he says.
A former townhouse that sits near the heart of Phnom Penh, Pteah Chas houses several creative and new businesses within its venerable walls from lifestyle brands to an art gallery.
On the ground floor, a variety of house plants tended to by Jungle à Domicile welcome guests as they enter.
The first floor space is shared by a lingerie and underwear store called Culotte.es is Domlei and a workshop for Cambodian craftspeople making handblock print textiles, custom clothing and gifts for home decor or every day use.
Kramuon Studio X Beaver and Co and Bloom Coffee are on the second floor, while the Shophouse Studio and Art Gallery is on the third floor just before one reaches the rooftop space where the market takes place.
“It’s a bit unique from other pop-up markets which are organised in parks or on the ground floor. Our pop-up market is distinctive because it’s on the rooftop of an old building. Before you reach the market, you enjoy walking up the stairs surrounded by plants and a wall of greenery resulting from years of work by our neighbours,” Sopheak says.
According to the older folks in the neighbourhood, the Pteah Chas building – along with the other structures in the area – was built back in the 1950s.
“When we started to renovate the building in 2019, we were surprised to find out that the architecture was older than we assumed. The owner has never live in the house and is a Cambodian working overseas.
“The house was continuously rented and occupied for many years but, sadly, the previous renter turned the house into many small rooms and installed new stairs. The house lost the wide open spaces and charm it originally possessed when that tenant changed the whole structure of the place.
“Because I’m a person who adores and values old architecture, I decided to research the history of the building and try to renovate it in a way that restored it to the original structure. We broke the walls down that split the big space into smaller rooms and recreated the wide open big room that allows natural light and air to circulate,” Sopheak tells The Post.
Climbing the old stairs now decorated with plants you can still see the old walls and their numerous scratches and stains but then at the top you reach an oasis of fresh air and calm in the middle of the noisy, messy and chaotic capital. Sopheak calls it “the art of shopping”.
“I think this is what make us unique. Pteah Chas is surrounded by other old buildings and we have a little art gallery that exhibits artwork by local and international artists. People can come to shop and enjoy looking at the artwork and maybe even have a chat with the artists themselves,” he says.
Sopheak’s preferred name for the Pteah Chas market is the New Rooftop Pop-up Market and he encourages everyone in the community to come and enjoy themselves and support local products.
“We have hosted three of these events already. At the past rooftop markets we worked with 30 partners including newly established businesses, creative enterprises and artists,” he says.
“Our rooftop pop-up market focuses on environmentally friendly products which are also creative and locally made. Some of the social businesses help support the livelihoods of vulnerable people and some aim to create jobs for women,” Sopheak explains.
The market has been carrying everything from recycled products to artwork to posters to handmade crafts, scented candles, jewellery, foods, beverages and seasonal fresh fruits grown on local farms and more.
“At the last pop-up market, we had six vendors plus the five from our building. In total we had 11 vendors with different products and we had between 200 and 300 people who came to shop and view the artworks in the little gallery on that day alone,” he says. “We don’t bother with targeted demographics. We don’t target anyone particularly. The community welcomes both young and old as well as all nationalities.”
Sopheak hopes to see more pop-up markets of this kind in Phnom Penh and other provinces organised by other communities.
“I’m happy to see more and more people come together to support local, creative, and environmentally friendly products from our social enterprises. It’d be a pleasure to see people do something new and show that they’re capable of doing it too.
“In fact, at Pteah Chas community we don’t have a big space or parking lots, yet we still tried out the idea for a pop-up market. I want people to think outside the box when they don’t think they have everything needed in order to achieve something because they can make the best use of what they have and work with other vendors and entrepreneurs to make it happen anyways by doing it their own way,” Sopheak says.
Despite the tropical weather and monsoon season, Sopheak said he will continue doing the rooftop pop-up market, though they have to be a bit more flexible if the weather becomes a challenged.
“Now the rainy season is coming which makes it hard to do the event on the rooftop in an open space. We have concerns, but if we need to we’ll find some different way of doing keeping this going to expand people’s connections, promote community and exchange ideas with each other,” he says.
The upcoming rooftop pop-up market is scheduled on May 7-8 from 10am to 6pm at #91 St 110 or Ang Duong St in the Wat Phnom Commune of Daun Penh District in Phnom Penh.
More information can be found on Facebook and Instagram: @pteahchas