With a touch of urban greenery and a nostalgia-laden atmosphere, a new pop-up rooftop market housed in a seven-decade-old building will return May 7-8, offering locally-made goods and a unique shopping experience.
Located southeast of Wat Phnom, the pop-up market is housed in the historic Pteah Chas building on St 110. It offers local and green produce that is sure to appeal to expats and Cambodians who love to shop, sip cold drinks and view the art exhibition which will be presented with local and international contributors.
Hem Chan Sopheak – who founded the Pteah Chas community – has already held three rooftop pop-up market events there.
“The idea of starting this pop-up rooftop market came to me after attending other events like the Odom Farmers Market and the market organized by the NGO Friends,” he told The Post.
The 30-year-old social entrepreneur obtained a bachelor’s degree in agronomy at the Royal University of Agriculture and then an MA in development studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
He set out to work with other socially conscious and like-minded entrepreneurs. Together they formed a community in Pteah Chas, a community that led to the rooftop market taking off.
“During the pandemic, the idea of having a rooftop market was very good because the outdoor environment is considered a safer place to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” says Sopeak. “We think we should make the most of this lovely building to connect our community business with other like-minded businesses.”
Sopeak says attendees can showcase their local or eco-friendly products at the market while engaging in a bit of old-fashioned social networking — face-to-face with handshakes and business cards or simply by engaging in friendly conversations.
“It’s also a great opportunity to bring together creative small businesses and newly established businesses to work with in addition to the six existing small businesses that are already part of our Pteah Chas community,” he says.
A former townhouse located near the heart of Phnom Penh, Pteah Chas is home to several creative and new businesses within its venerable walls, from lifestyle brands to an art gallery.
On the ground floor, a variety of indoor plants maintained by Jungle à Domicile greet 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 artisans making hand-printed textiles, personalized clothing and gifts for home decor or for daily use.
Kramuon Studio X Beaver and Co and Bloom Coffee are on the second floor, while Shophouse Studio and Art Gallery is on the third floor just before reaching the rooftop space where the market takes place.
“It’s a bit different from other pop-up markets that are held in parks or on the ground floor. Our pop-up market stands out because it is on the roof of an old building. Before you get to the market, you like to climb the stairs surrounded by plants and a wall of greenery resulting from years of work by our neighbors,” says Sopheak.
According to older people in the neighborhood, the Pteah Chas building – along with the other structures in the area – was built in the 1950s.
“When we started renovating the building in 2019, we were surprised to find that the architecture was older than we thought. The owner has never lived in the house and is a Cambodian working abroad .
“The house has been continuously rented and occupied for many years but unfortunately the previous tenant converted the house into several small rooms and installed new stairs. The house lost the large spaces and charm it originally had when this tenant changed the entire structure of the premises.
“Because I am a person who adores and values old architecture, I decided to research the history of the building and try to renovate it in such a way as to return it to its original structure. We knocked down the walls that divided the large space into smaller rooms and recreated the large, wide-open room that allows natural light and air to flow through,” Sopheak told the Post.
Climbing the old stairs now decorated with plants, you can still see the old walls and their many scratches and stains, but 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 that’s what makes us unique. Pteah Chas is surrounded by other old buildings and we have a small art gallery which displays works by local and international artists. People can come and shop and look at the artwork and maybe even chat with the artists themselves,” he says.
Sopheak’s favorite name for Pteah Chas Market is the new rooftop pop-up market and it encourages everyone in the community to come join in the fun and support local produce.
“We have already organized three of these events. In previous rooftop markets, we have worked with 30 partners, including start-ups, creative businesses and artists,” he says.
“Our rooftop pop-up market focuses on eco-friendly products that are also creative and locally made. Some of the social enterprises help support the livelihoods of vulnerable people and some aim to create jobs for women,” says Sopheak.
The market offers everything from upcycled goods and artwork to posters, crafts, scented candles, jewelry, food, beverages and seasonal fresh fruit 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 200-300 people who came to shop and view the artwork in the small gallery that day alone,” he says. “We don’t care about targeted demographics. We are not targeting anyone in particular. The community welcomes young and old as well as all nationalities.
Sopheak hopes to see more such pop-up markets in Phnom Penh and other provinces organized by other communities.
“I am happy to see more and more people coming together to support the local, creative and eco-friendly products of our social enterprises. It would be fun to see people do something new and show that they can do it too.
“Actually, in the Pteah Chas community, we don’t have big spaces or parking lots, but we still tried the idea of a pop-up market. I want people to think outside the box when they think they don’t have everything they need to achieve something because they can make the most of what they have and work with others suppliers and contractors to get there anyway by doing it their own way,” says Sopheak.
Despite the tropical climate and monsoon season, Sopheak said he will continue to market pop-up roofs, although they need to be a bit more flexible if the weather gets tough.
“Now the rainy season is coming, which makes it difficult to organize the rooftop event in an open space. We have concerns, but if we need to, we will find another way to ensure that it continues to expand connections between people, promote community and exchange ideas with each other,” he says.
The next rooftop pop-up market is scheduled for May 7-8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at No. 91 St 110 or Ang Duong St in Wat Phnom commune of Daun Penh district in Phnom Penh.
More information can be found on Facebook and Instagram: @pteahchas