The Jumpolin Piñata store, a long-time business in East Austin, announced its closure and blamed gentrification for its demise. The owners, the Lejarazu family, stated in a social media post that they are not defeated and will continue to serve the community in any way they can.
The demolition of Jumpolin’s original storefront in 2015 sparked an anti-gentrification movement in Austin led by the organization Defend Our Hoodz-Defiende El Barrio (DOH). East Austin, once a working-class neighborhood, has been targeted by developers seeking to attract wealthier residents and increase property values and rents. The community coalition’s efforts included a boycott of F&F Real Estate Ventures and any business that took advantage of their anti-working class practices.
In October 2015, the Blue Cat Café opened despite the boycott and sparked further combative organizing, leading to the formation of DOH in February 2016.
The Jumpolin Piñata store announced the closure of its storefront on a morning. The statement posted to social media was signed by the owners, the Lejarazu family, and unapologetically blamed gentrification for the store’s demise.
The store had been a staple of the community for over 10 years, providing piñatas and party rentals for the residents of East Austin. Despite the sad news, the family concluded the statement with a message of optimism, emphasizing that they are not defeated, and will continue to serve the community in any way they can.
Monica Lejarazu, one of the owners, told Incendiary that the decision to close had been made about a month ago. She said that the community that once had such a demand for piñatas and party rentals is dwindling quickly from the East side, and that the new wave of people just don’t value their work enough. This is due to the rapid gentrification of the East Austin neighborhood, which has been ongoing since the early 2000s.
The demolition of Jumpolin’s original storefront in 2015 was a major catalyst for the anti-gentrification movement in Austin. The landlords, F&F Real Estate Ventures, had demolished the building, located at 1401 Cesar Chavez St., to clear the lot for a party as part of the corporate tech and music festival South by Southwest. This was done without warning, while the owners were driving their daughter to school, and their merchandise and personal belongings were still inside. The images of the store in ruins made national headlines and sparked outrage in the community.
Jordan French, co-owner of F&F with Darius Fisher, further fueled the anger of the community when he made racist remarks about the Lejarazus, who are Mexican immigrants, in an interview a few days after the demolition. He had referred to them as “cockroaches.”
A coalition of activists and community members quickly emerged to support Jumpolin and resist F&F. The ruthless act of displacement did more than destroy the livelihoods of the Lejarazus; it clearly demonstrated the class character of gentrification.
Since the early 2000s, East Austin, which for generations had been a working-class neighborhood with racially segregated enclaves for Austin’s Black, Chicano, immigrant masses, has become the target of greedy developers who seek to reshape it to attract wealthier residents and increase property values and rents, the common pattern of gentrification seen worldwide. At one time, the Holly neighborhood where Jumpolin has operated was one of the most quickly gentrifying zip codes in the US.
The culmination of the community coalition’s efforts was the adoption of a boycott of F&F and any business that took advantage of their anti-working class business practices. In August of that year, entrepreneur Rebecca Gray knowingly crossed that picket line when they signed a lease with F&F to open the now-infamous Blue Cat Café. Blue Cat opened its doors a few months later in October 2015, and the militant response to this violation sowed the seeds for the combative organizing that would lead to the formation of DOH.
In conclusion, the closure of the Jumpolin Piñata store is a tragic loss for the East Austin community and a reminder of the negative impact of gentrification on working-class neighborhoods.
The store’s owners and the community they served have shown resilience and determination in their efforts to resist displacement and fight for their rights. The story of Jumpolin serves as an inspiration for other communities facing similar struggles.