A Hidden Gem in a Changing Saigon

Written by Erica Issenberg (Clark University), Student Correspondent CET Vietnam, Spring 2017


The Café Apartment Building, an old, historic building, in the midst of Ho Chi Minh City’s modernized city center

On 42 Nguyen Hue Street, amid all of the new industrialized centers, hotels, and businesses that crowd Saigon’s newly renovated walking street lies what seems to be a crumbling and old apartment building. This timeworn building, however, is the epitome of the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ as its inside has much to behold. The building is comprised of nine floors of hip coffee shops, quaint cafés, restaurants, and independently owned boutiques. As you walk up the stairs floor by floor, it is apparent that that each floor houses its own vibrant and lively community of small businesses that as a whole, give the apartment building a charming and unique feel. This building is commonly referred to as “The Café Apartments.”

The Maker Concept Café sits on the third floor of the apartment building. This café is different than the other coffee shops and cafés in the area, as it is both a café and workshop. The Maker encourages artists and creative-thinkers to utilize the space in order to develop new projects and ideas. This is where their catchy motto, “Where Ideas are Shared,” originates. The café is designed in a factory/industrial chic fashion, as it’s located in a spacious room with minimal wood decor, high ceilings, and funky lighting fixtures. It is a warm and positive environment, where group and individuals alike come to think and create. On top of that, the drinks at The Maker are one-of-kind, and are crafted with great attention and care from the amazing baristas.

Entrance to the Maker Concept Café

View of the Maker’s Interior

One of the most unique things about The Maker is that on the first floor of the building, it also houses a fashion boutique. The boutique, however, is interesting in the fact that the majority of the goods within the store, which include items such as clothes, beauty products, and jewelry, are made by local “makers.” One of the main missions of the Maker is to create a space where people can turn their ideas into products, and actually make a profit from the products they create. It also gives these artists and entrepreneurs a place and platform where they can promote their products to the public eye. Overall, the Maker Concept Café is not just your run-of-the-mill coffee shop. With its unique creator concept and enigmatic environment, it’s not a place to miss

Inside the Maker’s boutique

Jewelry Display at the Maker’s fashion boutique

Through our program here in Vietnam, we have the amazing opportunity to accompany our studies with a service-learning internship. For the past two and a half months, I have had the wonderful experience of interning at The Maker. As an intern at the Maker, I get to help out the staff with tasks such as advertising, branding, and constructing promotional materials, as well as developing and managing their social media channels. Above all, however, with my friend and the other intern Dylan, I was able to create content and oversee the production of a blog for the Maker Concept. Through the blog, we document the rich history of the downtown neighborhood/center of Ho Chi Minh City (where the Café Apartment Building and the Maker Concept are located), share news on events both at The Maker and other spots that may be of interest to The Maker’s followers, highlight products sold in The Maker’s showroom, and showcase The Maker’s space, i.e., the cafe and shop, by photographing the cafe’s, specialty drinks, the interior design, and the many people who come to the space to work, create, and share ideas. All photographs within this blog post have been featured on my other blog as well!

In addition to enjoying the work that I do for the Maker, I have gained a unique perspective about the community, as well as the many controversies that surround the current development of Ho Chi Minh City’s downtown area. It is a place of rapid-growth and urbanization, and due to the pace at which its developing, places like the Maker and the Café Apartment Building may not be around for much longer. It is, therefore, vital to enjoy and admire irreplaceable places like these in the midst of the bustling and ever-growing city, as they may not be around for much longer.

Having fun taking pictures of the Maker’s specialty drinks

Sunset caught on top of the Café Apartment Building