Rowing with Gentrification

With little existence of empirical research, gentrification can be traced back to as far as the third century in ancient Rome and in Roman Britain, where large villas were replacing small shops. Today, this particular subject has attracted extensive debate. Some celebrate it as urban progress, some see it as social cleansing; many blame money-grabbing developers for turning it into a playground for wealthy people resulted in displacement of former residents. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but gentrification is here to last.

Raving about The Row

Located right in the heart of the bustling Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Doraisamy has undergone revival but the facade has yet to lose its old charm. Back in its glory days, it was one of the hottest spots in good old KL.

Despite the lack of large residential presence, The Row has quickly built an audience of working adults who are prone to logging long hours. They, too, can have a jovial time in between lunches, breaks and happy hour.

It is no surprise then seeing familiar face Alan from Lima Pulo at Butter + Beans, Kien from Butter + Beans in Lima Pulo. The genuine camaraderie is unbeatable. “The team (Pocket Projects) tried to maintain the aesthetic of the place. It was a thoughtful process, they didn’t cut down the tree and build three floors on top even though they can,” claimed Jenifer (Butter + Beans).

These folks bring people together to create a sense of community (that’s unlikely being destroyed in the name of profit), and I think they deserve a big round of applause!

What made them do it? Passion, passion, passion.

Butter + Beans — cozy, hip, friendly

Alex and Jenifer are passionate about running community-oriented businesses in unusual spots.

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Sunday to-do: lounging at the Instagram-worthy front door of Butter + Beans
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The ability to translate ‘black and yellow’ to a stunning interior deserves some kind of prize.

“It’s interesting to be here,” said Jenifer, the too-cool-for-you ex lawyer who’s now the partner of Asianage Holdings Sdn Bhd. Together with Alex, whom Jenifer addressed as the alpha-hipster, they co-owned a chain of F&B business. They looked as hip as the Kenzo duo and share the same platonic relationship — best friends and business partners.

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The dynamic duo; Alex (L) and Jenifer (R)

In case you can’t do math: Butter + Beans = Cakes + Coffee

The belief of focusing on building spaces in community and bringing immediate services to the surrounding area have long fascinated Jenifer, who grew up in Teluk Intan hanging around his grandfather’s shop. “We want to find a balance, it’s trendy enough for young people to come but if I bring my mom she wouldn’t freak out (feel out of place),” explained Alex. “Community is our key phrase”, Jenifer reiterated.

“It must be diverse,” stressed Jenifer. To the duo, gentrification is a familiar subject. Since their Food Foundry days, they have witnessed the transformation and knew for the fact that our city is grappling with significant pressures in retaining neighbourhood diversity in the face of gentrification. “It’s the people that makes the neighbourhood, not the buildings. If everyone cares a little bit more, everything will be a little bit better.”

Lima Pulo — legacy for future generation

Uncle John’s business grew out of his bona fide desire for an edible piece of his legacy. Together with his godson Alan, they are setting their sights on the global prize.

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A place to slow down: Get your mind off the screen, see pretty things in the alfresco area — trees, and the sky will help your stressful feelings fall away.
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The wonderland of old school knick knacks and collectibles.
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“Perhaps the younger generation will realize what it was like (the look) a long time ago.” —Uncle John from Lima Pulo

Have you tried the laksa? It was recently awarded the best laksa in Klang Valley by Star People’s Choice, a rock solid proof that Uncle John is a worthy competitor of his celebrity chef wife, Florence Tan. If you haven’t, expect to wait in queue with the regular white collar crowd and foreign folks coming from Europe, Hong Kong and Shanghai, not forgetting the latest tribe of Kuala Lumpur — the hipsters. Uncle John gave praise to the power of social media, “What seems like 80 years of work can be done in 8 hours.”

“If you have no passion, don’t ever go into this line. It is very time-consuming and the working hours are very long,” claimed Uncle John in a very full voice. “‘I have hardly four hours of sleep everyday.”

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“Business without passion, interest, fun will always remain mundane. Let’s add in more colour into this. Different taste and colour will hike up the entire row.” —Alan from Lima Pulo

The 1,700 sq ft space is tastefully decorated with niche collectibles and old barang. “These are certain tools that I grow up with. They bring me back to memory lane, humbles me and always reminds me of where I begin,” said the 37-year-old Alan who hasn’t aged a bit since his modeling days.

Talking to one of the very last babas in town — the knowledgeable but unassuming Uncle John was a great pleasure. These days, we are counting on him in reviving the classic communication, one ‘hello’ at a time.

When speaking of the community at The Row, they are in fact, celebrating ‘the more the merrier’ case. They have a keen sense of creating community around tasty morsels and rich tradition. “We are very much depending on the community,” said Alan, reversing the dictum. “We want this to be a place where everybody can enjoy, meet and greet.”

“Because nyonya cuisine is a legacy.” Both of them also seem to covet the same wish, that is — knowing everybody’s name by heart. ◆

Up the next time, we’ll reveal a little more about this Row, starting with the almost fusion fanatics at Pestle & Mortar and its League of Captains (no, not a movie, at least not yet) and Slate.

Danica Chia

Writer, flâneur & ice-cream enthusiast.

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