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Jakarta Post

In Yogyakarta 3 women run 3 very different '€˜warung'€™

  • Willow Paule

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Tue, August 26, 2014   /  12:02 pm
In Yogyakarta 3 women run 3 very different '€˜warung'€™

Bariah, an earthy 57-year-old woman, is the owner of Angkringan Bu Atik on Jl. Manguyudan, near Jl. Parangtritis, in Yogyakarta.

Most ankringan, which (literally) offer sidewalk dining, offer only basic fare.

However, Bu Bariah cooks six Javanese dishes a night, which she transports to the angkringan on her bicycle in a motley collection of recycled water bottles and coolers.

There are challenges to life as a small businesswoman in Yogyakarta, according to Bariah, who was born in the city. '€œI have debt, that'€™s the hard part,'€ she says. '€œStreet sellers have a hard time paying off debts. But my dream is to buy a refrigerator to store leftovers in the future.'€

Bariah, who has been working on Jl. Manguyudan for 24 years, is an independent and smart entrepreneur who has counted on her own resourcefulness and resilience to forge a better life for herself and her family.

Space is cramped at the angkringan: a table and benches are set to the immediate right of the cart. However, Bu Bariah'€™s customers are considerate, making room for anyone who comes along.

Some have been loyal patrons for decades, including taxi drivers awaiting calls, students who live in the neighborhood and becak rickshaw drivers, looking for an inexpensive, filling meal.

She offers a delicious sayur lodeh: creamy coconut milk, the sweet-and-sour taste of red melinjo berries and greens, spicy green chilies, potatoes and jackfruit.

Local artist Mawardi, age 31, says he frequents the angrinkan because of '€œgood food, reasonable prices for large portions, varied vegetable dishes and the sayur lodeh.'€

Despite long days and hard work, Bariah says she enjoys her work and has never been bored. The secret to keeping loyal customers is attitude. '€œI'€™m friendly, so people keep coming,'€ Bariah says. '€œI like speaking with my customers, and I don'€™t forget to smile.'€

Nearby at Godomanan Intersection, another woman, Yogyakarta-born Mecrina, 49, has been serving nasi sayur for 17 years.

Before starting the business, Mecrina owned a large catering company. However, when an employee made off with Rp 700 million (US$59,747) in monthly payments from seven large factory contracts, she lost her business.

Mecrina sold all her belongings and dismissed her nine helpers with double pay.

After several months '€” and with an unemployed husband '€” Mecrina said that she had to get back to work. '€œI felt forced to start again, even though it was from zero. But I was grateful because to the left and right of me I had family support. My husband supports me 100 percent.'€

The warung (small street-side restaurant) is housed in a tiny green building that seats seven. A stationary cart in front holds the 35 dishes she makes daily.

'€œAlthough I wanted to go to college, we couldn'€™t afford it,'€ Mecrina says. '€œBut saving money, helping my nephews and nieces, owning a motorcycle and buying land are all ways I define success in my life.'€

She is happy with the dynamic she has developed with her two employees. '€œMy workers and I complement each other'€™s strengths and weaknesses.'€ Mecrina even pays school fees for one worker'€™s child. '€œBut once her kid is out of elementary school, she'€™s on her own,'€ Mecrina says, laughing.

As in the case of Bariah, some of Mecrina'€™s customers have also been visiting for decades. They say she remembers their names, what they like to eat and the details of their lives.

Meanwhile, Ida, a petite and nattily dressed 53-year-old, has operated a small warung named '€œPecel Madiun Bu Ida'€ near Kridosono stadium in Kota Baru for 10 years.

Ida stresses using fresh ingredients, and her peanut sauce has a tangy, sweet, spicy flavor. Pecel Madiun uses roasted peanuts instead of fried.

Although comfortably middle-class '€” Ida has a degree in chemistry and a background in mining and water consultation '€” she says she enjoys the variety her warung affords.

Ida wants to '€œgive back to the community'€ through her warung, and she empowers others by employing two women and a man '€œwho work for what they earn.'€

She is also interested in health and fitness '€” a passion she pursues in her work and free time. Ida said that she liked to use her chemistry background to create custom juices for herself and friends.

'€œWhen I was in college, I also took a food production technology class, because my hobby was going to the gym to keep myself healthy,'€ Ida says. '€œThen I started making the juice. At first. the juice was just for me but then friends told me it was tasty. And so I studied more about how to make a healthy juice ['€¦.] I tried to find out how people could drink juice, but in a healthy way.'€

'€œI studied the properties of different vitamins in fruit. For example, apples: exactly what vitamins are in that fruit? And then I researched blood type A, for example. Are the intestines of people with that blood type wet or acidic?'€

In 2012, she added tailored juices to the menu. '€œMy friends convinced me to sell them at the warung.'€

When a customer comes in, she asks their blood type and makes a juice based on that information. For those with type-A blood, she mixes starfruit and tomato.

She says not every juice is suitable for every person, based on her experience and asking customers to trust her to make the right mix.

Although in time, women may be more equally accepted and treated in the workplace, these three women aren'€™t waiting: They'€™re empowering themselves and their employees now, creating change with each dish they serve.

'€” Photos By Willow Paule

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