By Ellen Zoe Golden Photo by: Juan Carlos Cerdas
When attorney Juan Carlos Cerdas was developing his land on the road next to Patagonia, he envisioned a true little marketplace like the ones he knew of in Spain and Italy. And when he opened El Mercadito de Tamarindo in early February, he attained his goal.
The outdoor space features primarily restaurants surrounding a stage and a large bar, with a couple of clothing and bathing suit stores for good measure.
“It’s a true tourist attraction and not just like going to a single food court,” explained Cerdas. “The goal is to offer activities as well. The response has been good especially because there are no walls or fences and it’s all teak wood. We put a lot into all the details, and we made sure to have big, clean bathrooms too, which is something Tamarindo needs. There’s also good security so that everyone feels safe.”
The restaurants that Cerdas rented space to at El Mercadito are Poke Hawaiiano, Lush Cocina Tropical, Pura Vegan, Asian Fusion, Patagonia, Mimosa, Mi Tribu, Arepas Venezolanas, Doña Ana, Tamaburger, Utopia Pasteleria Francesa. Soon there will be a Pops and Haagen-Dazs ice cream shop. In the center of it all is the Medusa Bar.
No restaurant competes with each one featuring their own specialties. They open and close at the same time from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Pagers are given to customers so it’s easier to order and sit down, which is an advantage in a group whose individual members choose different restaurants.
“I think it’s the design that it attracts all different kinds of people like families and young people, just everyone who is interested in the right atmosphere to get together and share. The concept is to make something that people will enjoy even if they don’t get something to eat,” he said.
Activities will take place to create what Cerdas believes will be a project that’s “alive.” Some of these already planned include daily music performances—bands from Tamarindo or elsewhere—salsa and tango lessons, and a tango presentation as well as a Bingo night. With the stage, he wants to make El Mercadito into a multicultural space with various artistic presentations. In addition, the different restaurants will have promotions geared towards drawing people in. One such activity was on Valentine’s Day, where El Mercadito gave away petite French desserts to its patrons.
Cerdas sees El Mercadito having an important role in the community. He has already been serving on the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Tamarindo board, and it was in those efforts that he realized his marketplace could do a lot to help Tamarindo. El Mercadito is donating an ATV for the lifeguards program in order to help them rush to drowning victims no matter where located on the beach.
“This is part of the social consciousness of the project,” he concluded. “We also sponsor the kids’ soccer team. We donated money to keep the program alive and we presented the team with new uniforms.”