The Jakarta Post

Tastemakers from Jakarta’s
good old days:
A story of perseverance
and keeping up with change

By Life Team

Long before skyscrapers become ubiquitous in Jakarta, the spirit of living life to the fullest has been apparent in certain corners of the capital. Individuals who live out their passion and are adept at spotting golden opportunities have become pioneers in establishing distinctive businesses, setting the standards for the lifestyle needs of Jakarta residents.

While not every pioneer stands the test of time, some have flourished, running their businesses wholeheartedly, investing in good human relationships and eventually passing down the legacy to the next generation.

The Laba-Laba repair shop, well-known by Jakartans who trust it to take care of their leather goods and other prized possessions, was built upon the passion of mending things.

“In trying, there is always the risk of failure. And the key is, when opportunities arise, what damage there is to fix, we want to give it a try,” Viki Yaputra, from the fifth generation of the family running Laba-Laba, told The Jakarta Post.

The courage to grab an opportunity also marks the beginning of the Ragusa Italian ice cream shop, currently owned by Hj. Sias Mawarni. Sias offered to take over the business as a compassionate gesture, and without being over-promising managed to exceed her predecessor’s expectations.

Until today, those who have known Jakarta for decades still occasionally feel the urge to return to Ragusa – for the ice cream and for the sake of the good old days.

A good eye for opportunities also gave birth to the Bersih Sehat massage parlor, founded by Hariono, who is himself a discerning massage parlor customer.

Jakarta dwellers in the know like to drop by Bersih Sehat for a 60 or 90-minute escape when bustling city life leaves them fatigued.

Meanwhile, on the fashionable side of Jakarta lifestyle, prominent or discreetly prominent figures rely on the Atham tailor shop, which describes itself as an expert in suits and batik. The regeneration process and challenges posed by changing times are not considered fearsome by Don Tjong, who took over the shop from his father with fresh ideas.

Above all, lifestyle businesses from Jakarta’s good old days spark memories, and when it comes to making the sweetest memories eternal, prominent families in the capital opt for King Foto, in keeping with the tradition of their elders.

As families regenerate through time, so does King Foto. In business for nearly half a century, it provides options aplenty for younger clients and has a youthful workforce to keep up with change.

  • Laba - Laba

    established in


    In the old days, the establishment was famous for preserving animals.

  • ragusa es italia

    established in


    The founders came to Indonesia all the way from Italy to learn tailoring.

  • atham tailor

    established in


    In 2014, Atham Tailor collaborated with Max Metino, a mixed-martial arts (MMA) athlete and coach, on a photo session.

  • King Foto

    established in


    The Roxy headquarters specializes in international-style wedding, while the Arteri Pondok Indah branch focuses on Indonesian traditional-style wedding photography.

  • Bersih sehat

    established in


    The employees have to be non-smokers, as founder Hariono insisted that it was the company’s principle to live healthy.

  • Managing Editor Life

    Asmara Wreksono

  • Technology

    Adri Putranto

    Indra Gusti Prasetya

    Abdul Harris


  • UI/UX Designer

    Sandy Riady Hasan

    Kevin Setiawan

  • Editors

    Keshie Hernitaningtyas

    Maria Wening Gitomartoyo

    Muthi Achadiat Kautsar

  • Life Team

    Jessicha Valentina

    Ni Nyoman Wira

    Devina Heriyanto

    Arsi Agnitasari

  • Multimedia

    Bayu Widhiatmoko

    Wendee Widiantini

    I Gede Dharma JS

    Ahmad Zamzami

    Rian Irawan

    Wienda Parwitasari

    Oki Maulana

    Donny Fernando

    Juni Ananta

Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post

Bersih Sehat massage parlor persists with unswerving commitment

Wening Gitomartoyo The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

A lifelong habit sparked something in Hariono when he found it difficult to find a decent massage parlor. Back in the 1970s, the civil engineering graduate from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) born in East Java’s Malang began his first job in Jakarta’s development planning agency.

“Ever since I was a small boy, it had become a routine to get massaged. I loved massages. But in those days in Jakarta, it was hard to find a parlor that was clean and respectable,” he said. “Those days, massages carried a certain reputation.”

A simple question from a masseuse sometime later would change the course of Hariono’s life: “Why don’t you open a parlor yourself?”

He started by learning the details of what a parlor needed, and came up with his basic concept of a good massage: that it needs to have a clean place and well-trained employees. In 1983, the first Bersih Sehat massage parlor was launched in Mayestik, South Jakarta. True to its name, Hariono made sure that the place would always be spotless and provide massage for fatigue.

The second location followed seven years later in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta. Now, it has branches all over Jakarta and the greater area, including Tangerang’s Bintaro, BSD and Banten’s Anyer. The name Bersih Sehat has become synonymous with getting a superb, valuable massage. In its parlors, customers can find Javanese touches, from the batik fabric on the foot of the bed to the wooden furniture with distinct carvings.

Admitting that it was remarkably difficult in the first few years, Hariono said he pushed through as he saw an opportunity.

“I never expected it would flourish so much,” said the 74-year-old, who later also branched out into the restaurant business. “What I had in mind initially was that everything [in Bersih Sehat] needed to be spotless, while the other crucial matter was the people,” he added. Hariono made sure that the employees were good-natured and with zero experience, who he could mold with the company’s knowledge and technique.

Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post
Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post

He insisted that Bersih Sehat provided massage for fatigue, not for treatment or therapy. A masseuse would follow a three-month training program in massage technique, which he said has remain unchanged over the years.

“We try to keep it the same, as that is our strength. What has made us survive for so long is our concept of massage, which we keep unchanged,” he said.
Bersih Sehat received ISO certification in 2000, the only massage parlor in Indonesia to do so.

Surviving for so long, Hariono found, also required adapting to the times and facing competition. He depended on word-of-mouth marketing, especially in the beginning, for the brand to be recognized.

The employees are required to follow the rules strictly, such as no chatting during working hours and to be polite at all times. They also have to be non-smokers, as Hariono insisted that it was the company’s principle to live healthy.

  • Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post
  • Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post

When asked if there was any special strategy involved, he answered, “There is no special strategy. The first thing is to persist with your own concept, because that’s what people depend on. Let’s take a popular soto joint as an example; it needs to follow the exact same recipe. Even a slight change would spark questions from customers. Bersih Sehat cannot allow that to happen, so we need to be consistent.”

What do you imagine of Bersih Sehat in the future, I asked Hariono. He said, “Should there be a way, I’d love to open other branches. But maintaining what we already have is hardly easy, it is incredibly hard work. Only if we managed to do that, then I’d seriously think of the possibility of new branches.”

Back to home
Ragusa Es Italia - The Jakarta Post

Ragusa Italian Ice Cream offers a taste of old Jakarta

Jessicha Valentina The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Established in 1932, Ragusa Italian Ice Cream is one of the oldest ice cream shops in Indonesia.

Ragusa has two outlets located in Duta Merlin and Jl. Veteran, Central Jakarta.

However, the latter has become an icon of the capital as it has been serving its loyal patrons since 1947, after being relocated from its original location at Gambir Market

Visitors to Ragusa outlet on Jl. Veteran will feel as if they are being transported back in time. Occupying a historic building, the outlet is minimally furnished with vintage wooden tables and rattan chairs.

Meanwhile, the pale yellow wall is decorated with black-and-white photos, displaying the faces of the original owners and Ragusa’s first outlet at Gambir Market. At the back of the outlet, visitors can see old ice-cream machines, hinting that Ragusa is still using its original recipes.

Although Ragusa is a legendary ice cream store, the founders, Vincenzo and Luigi Ragusa, actually came to Indonesia all the way from Italy to learn tailoring. However, upon meeting a friend who owned a cattle farm, they decided to open an ice cream store, giving Indonesians a taste of Italian ice cream.

Hj. Sias Mawarni, the current owner of Ragusa, told The Jakarta Post that her husband, Buntoro Kurniawan, began working for Ragusa in the 1960s.

“My in-laws were good friends of the founders,” she said, explaining the connection between her family and Ragusa brothers.

“As my husband is a smart guy, he learned how to fix the [ice cream] machines. Once he mastered this, the bosses did not need to hire a technician anymore. [They] gave my husband a car [to thank him],” she recalled.

The 77-year-old woman said she took over the business in 1972 as Ragusa’s youngest brother passed away.

  • Ragusa Es Italia - The Jakarta Post
  • Ragusa Es Italia - The Jakarta Post

“He wanted to sell it and advertised it on newspaper for around two months, looking for someone to purchase the business. But no one [was] interested,” said Sias,” I told him [Ragusa] to go home, saying that I would help my husband run Ragusa. [Who would have thought], he gave it to me.”

“I told him that I could not pay the franchise [fees], but he said not to worry. I was asked to send him any amount of money to Italy,” she recalled.

Unexpectedly, the business went well and Sias expanded it, opening more than 20 outlets.

Alas, most of the outlets were burned down during the 1998 riots, leaving her with the two current shops in Duta Merlin and Jl. Veteran.

Eight decades have passed, but Sias said she rarely made changes to Ragusa.

The ice cream store still serves its popular menu items, such as Tutti Frutti, Cassata Siciliana, spaghetti [ice cream] and banana splits.

  • Ragusa Es Italia - The Jakarta Post
  • Ragusa Es Italia - The Jakarta Post

Sias explained that Tutti Frutti and Cassata Sicilliana were on the original menu, meanwhile, spaghetti [ice cream] and banana splits were added to the menu after Sias learned about Italian cuisine.

In regard to main courses, she said Ragusa in Duta Merlin also offered a variety of meals, such as cap cay (mixed vegetables), nasi goreng (fried rice) and more.

When it comes to the ice cream recipes, Sias continues to serve milk-based ice cream.

“Ice cream is made from either milk or butter. If it’s made from butter, it could increase the risk of stomach cancer,” she said.

“Our ice cream is made from a mixture of milk, water and sugar and without preservatives,” she added, saying that milk-based ice cream helped maintain youthful skin and healthy bodies.

When asked about her secret to success, Sias said helping others was the key.

Sias, who also teaches Mandarin for free at Ragusa Duta Merlin, shared that she frequently helped others, such as orphans. 

“Many people say I’m a good person,” she said, adding that she thanked God for all the blessings.

Back to home
Laba laba - The Jakarta Post

121 years on, Laba-Laba still spinning as strong as a spider's web

Keshie Hernitaningtyas The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

As the owner of fifth generation family-run business Laba-Laba, a one-stop shop for leather repairs that has, remarkably, been around since 1898, one may think that 33-year-old Viki Yaputra had been groomed since birth to continue in his father’s footsteps.

This could not be farther from the truth.

Unlike his older siblings, Viki always refused his father's requests to help out at the store when he was little.

"I was never pushed to continue the business. When I was little, I refused to visit the store. Meanwhile, my three siblings were taught to help out at the store after school. Perhaps since I was the youngest, my father just let me do what I wanted, although he often grumbled about my habit of playing games and watching TV," Viki recently told The Jakarta Post during an interview at Laba-Laba Arteri Pondok Indah in South Jakarta.

After getting his medical microbiology degree abroad, Viki went on to work outside the country. However, since he loves challenges, meeting people and solving problems, he decided to return home.

"Turns out, I'm the one who ended up continuing the business. There's no one else doing it; all my siblings are now working and living abroad," he said.

The company was founded by Jap A Ten as De Spin, which means "spider" in Dutch, as the company seeks to offer a quality of service that is as strong as a spider's web. Later renamed Laba-Laba, the company’s first store was located in Cikini, Central Jakarta, with the business then passed down to the second and third generations. The oldest son of the fourth generation later inherited the Cikini store, while his younger brothers ran new stores in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, and Panglima Polim, South Jakarta.

Since 2010, Viki has managed the Panglima Polim store after inheriting it from his 63-year- old father, Erwin. He has since expanded the business in many ways, including by opening five new branches (Arteri Pondok Indah, Grogol in West Jakarta, Gading Serpong in Tangerang, Depok in West Java, and Surabaya in East Java), doing business-to-business (B2B) sales and rebranding by transforming from a mere workshop to a bright modern retail shop.

  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post
  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post
  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post
JP/Courtesy of Laba-laba

"The difference in profit of having one store compared to two or three stores is not much since the cost are higher as well. However, it changes the system; I can have a bigger team, which means I can delegate [duties] more. It then allows me to tackle direction-related matters, such as where the company is going, our vision and mission, and to make investments, such as in machinery," said Viki, adding that his father had questioned his decision to open the new stores.

"We have a very different mindset. 'Why do you need to open so many stores? Just one is enough' he said," Viki shared, chuckling. "I still consult him on many things, though. He was a very hands-on boss."

The Metro Pondok Indah branch is currently the brand's only store that serves B2B clients, which now make up around 30 percent of its market.

"We have previously served B2B clients, such as luxury suitcase brands, but unofficially. However, five years ago we began to offer them more conveniences through B2B channel agreements, which include fixed prices and pickup services."

With the fast pace of modern lifestyles and fashion trends, handling high customer expectations is one of the businesses’ biggest challenges.

"Many people still think that we can repair their items to be like new. We can, but not 100 percent. Our main focus is not cosmetic, but functionality. We are limited in our work since we don't have the original parts. We try telling them this from the start, but sometimes our customers' expectations are too high and they are disappointed."

  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post
  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post
  • Laba laba - The Jakarta Post

The fact that today's products are much cheaper due to being mass-produced also poses a challenge. "Products made in factories and sold online are getting more and more affordable. However, our employees sometimes need half to a day's work to repair them, no matter how cheap they are. Hence, my task is to try to run the business as efficiently as possible so that all our customers can afford our services."

Educating the company’s employees, which currently total 100, is also crucial to expanding the business.

"Fifty percent of our employees have been with us for more than 10 years; some even for 40 years. Most of them are technicians and come from outside the city. My job is to ensure that they discard old values and mindsets that are negative, such as laziness and opposition to change."

As a long-established brand, Laba-Laba enjoys recognition among people of older generations. However, it is not so well known among younger people.

"The young generation knows little about us. Those who do are usually introduced to us by their parents. Hence, we try to reach young people and mobile users through social media campaigns and collaboration with [smart locker logistics company] PopBox Asia," said Viki.

From bags and shoes to suitcases, sofas, makeup boxes, toys and headphones, even helping people to open safe-deposit boxes after the owner dies, Laba-Laba is committed to staying true to its tagline "reparasi segala" (fix everything).

"We can basically repair anything. Be sure to call us first to check," Viki said.

"In the old days, we were famous for preserving animals. People would bring dead tigers and cendrawasih to our store. We then stuffed them and preserved them using formalin. Even now, one or two customers have asked us whether we still offer this service, to which, of course, we say no," he added, smiling.

Back to home
King Foto - The Jakarta Post

Nearing the half-century mark, King Foto still preserving memories

Asmara Wreksono The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

One of the oldest lifestyle businesses in the capital, King Foto, is still standing tall amid the rise of digital photography. Located in Roxy, Central Jakarta, the company’s headquarters greets visitors with a warm ambience and the sweet smell of coffee brewed in Phos Coffee and Eatery, a trendy and elegant café owned by the photo company.

Taking the stairs to the second floor where business transactions happen, a wall of Hanafi’s artwork, which features shoe sculptures, welcomes people from all walks of life who want their memories preserved by the pros in the building.

With a spacious consultation area and bridal showrooms, the second floor is quite possibly the busiest area in the building. Families, couples and young parents flock to meeting tables to engage in discussions about their desired photography stylings.

Michael Leonardi, the managing director of King Foto, told The Jakarta Post that he believed photography was a business that valued human relationships.

“It’s not how much you sell, it’s not how good a picture is going to be. Our big business is customization – this is why we ask about their house sizes, interior style, so we can recommend the right size of photos for the right environment.”

Established in 1971 in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra, by photographer Gunawan Leonardi, King Foto has since become a household name for Jakartans whenever family photo moments arise. The company’s two outlets in Roxy and Arteri Pondok Indah cater to similar economic classes but have very different styles.

“We cater to different markets. The Roxy branch caters more to international-style weddings, while the one in Arteri Pondok Indah caters more to the traditional Indonesian weddings,” Michael explained.

  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post
  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post
  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post
  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post
JP/Courtesy of King Foto

To reach a wider market, Michael, who is a second generation manager of the family’s main business, diversified the business into several sister companies, including a bridal gown renting service, digital print specialist, beauty salon, video recording service and fine art paper distribution operation.

“My brother Indra and myself have continued the business [after inheriting it] from our parents,” he said, referring to Indra Leonardi, his younger brother who runs a photography business within the King Foto group called The Leonardi, which caters to higher-end clientele.

A member of the Professional Photographers of America, King Foto draws from it direction on the overall photography business and its future.

The rapid development in photography technology pushes Michael and his team to keep on evolving.

“In terms of digitalizing, we can shorten up [the process] and make [the results] much better and faster,” Michael said, adding that the human touch was still needed on the artistic side.

"Art-wise, it still [depends] on [the person] behind the overall [process]."

In its 48th year of operation, the company maintains a good relationship with its clients – a surefire strategy for staying at the top of people’s minds.

  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post
  • King Foto - The Jakarta Post

“[The] photography [business] serves generations upon generations. We can say that our business [stays with] people from when they were still a baby, through to college, marriage and up to the time when they [have their own] babies. So it’s a huge range,” Michael said.

The third and rooftop floor of the building consists of a hair salon, hairpiece showroom and variety of photo studios decorated with different styles to suit the needs and demands of clients. Although known for its impeccable family photos, the company is now branching out and focusing on graduation, corporate and individual photos.

“There’s a pool of talent working for us. We need mature photographers as well as younger people who can help us push [our business] to the younger markets,” Michael said.

King Foto’s main recipe for almost half a century of success, according to Michael, is to listen to customers, maintain the brand’s presence and keep the trust of stakeholders.

“I think trust is the one thing that we have been able to deliver. It’s very important. We also take critique as input to improve ourselves.”

Back to home
Atham Tailor - The Jakarta Post

Atham Tailor: Overcoming hardship to reach new generations

Ni Nyoman Wira The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

“I can say that my father is one of a kind.”

Don Tjong, 37, the second-generation owner of Atham Tailor, told The Jakarta Post on April 2 at the Plaza Indonesia branch of the tailor business.

Established in 1968, Atham Tailor had a humble beginning. Don’s father, Atham Gozali, traveled from his hometown, the West Kalimantan city of Singkawang, to Jakarta. In the capital city, he lived in a small kos- kosan (rooming house) in Jembatan Lima subdistrict, West Jakarta. He became interested in tailoring after seeing how the process was done at a tailor shop near his kos-kosan. He learned how the bespoke suits were made and later opened his own store in Jembatan Lima.

“My father […] is famous because he provided very good services,” said Don.

The business has gone through various ups and downs, but the May riots in 1998 hit them very hard. “My father was traumatized – our shop was heavily damaged. There was nothing left,” Don said.

But Atham Tailor has found a way to rise again. It became one of the first tailors to open branches in shopping malls in Jakarta and currently has a total of four outlets in Indonesia.

Don, who effectively took over the tailor shop five years ago, admitted that he wasn’t that interested in tailoring at first. “But as I [tried to] understand tailoring, I began to see the beauty in it,” he said, adding that he spent a long time learning the basics before reaching the top position. He was placed in different sections within the business, starting from sewing, ironing and storage and eventually management.

“It’s not easy to take over a tailoring business because the process of making [bespoke suits] takes more than 100 steps. I’m grateful to be able to maintain the business until now. It’s a challenge – every day is a challenge,” Don said, adding that he still preserved traditions but also embraced modern tools.

As generations have come and gone, the tailor has seen different customers, too. Don said that while the shop could expect regular clientele in the past, it had become more difficult to attract new customers.

He said that when he took over the shop from his father, one of the challenges he faced was that younger people were not aware of his brand.

“When I took over [the business], I noticed that our revenue was decreasing because many of our customers were too old and they didn’t need suits tailored anymore. That’s when I needed to become more creative,” Don said.

In 2014, Atham Tailor collaborated with Max Metino, a mixed-martial arts (MMA) athlete and coach, in a photoshoot. It was a bold decision, as Max tends to wear sport t-shirts and shorts on a daily basis. “I really wanted to do something impactful because he had never donned a suit before,” Don said.

  • Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post
  • Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post
  • Bersih Sehat - The Jakarta Post

The collaboration was beneficial for both sides, with Atham Tailor gaining more popularity among the youth, and Max catching the eye of film producers. Don said he hoped to collaborate with other athletes and celebrities in the future. When it comes to competition, Don said he never felt threatened by other tailor shops, as he liked to get along with them.

“We discuss current trends in suits, and if I have a problem, I will ask them, such as what if someone has a shoulder that is higher than the other,” he said.

“We can’t tell which tailor is the best because at Atham Tailor we’re experts in suits and batik, but perhaps there are other tailors that make better pants than us. So, there’s no such thing as the perfect tailor.”

Back to home

Join the discussions