By Ellen Zoe Golden
With over 300 visitors a day going into the Garden Plaza’s Automercardo Damian Geneau and his group of collaborators from Tamarindo Land Development decided it was time to regenerate the commercial center.
The first step was to move some parking out back and create a new entrance directly through the mall. This way, people pass the new businesses. Two fitness centers opened up—WISE and Gracie Tamarindo—bringing folks going to their various classes and to use their equipment. And, restaurateur Kandice Sul de Waiser, who runs Tamarindo’s Wok n’ Roll has opened a food spot called Paladar, inspired by the underground/speakeasy/Mom and Pop places servicing meals out of their homes. Sul’s popularity is sure to bring in friends and fans with a menu of Kandwiches—long baguettes hollowed out and filled with goodies like Turkey Truffle, Steak and Cheese or Kale Patty, with or without gooey cheese—and choose-your-own salads and ceviche.
When Garden Plaza opened, it was filled with what Geneau calls “anchor stores” like Althea, Mango Surf Shop, Scotia and Óptica Visión, as well as Automercardo. Bad locations, high rent and the financial crisis eventually saw the first two properties close, and Óptica Visión eventually moved to another commercial center. Geneau believes that Tamarindo has a unique population who are looking for a different type of place, one that focuses on their specific needs, as well as those of families and children.
“Our group focused on starting from scratch,” he explained. “ We wanted to draw people in. Garden Plaza is already an attractive asset. My main goal for Plaza was to put in small shops of interest. I spent the last 20 years in small towns in Costa Rica and San Jose, and we did not want to copy and paste the same shops and businesses in every commercial center. If the locals aren’t enticed, then no one will be. Everyone lives here for a reason and we took that model and recreated it in the Plaza.”
To satisfy youngsters, there is a children’s play area; Plego, a daycare that offers creative learning with Legos; Mundo Aventura with its rock climbing wall and other activities; and even Gracie Tamarindo has mixed martial arts classes for kids, among its adult classes.
Geneau approached local artist Robb Havassy about opening a gallery in order to add a little sophistication. Havassy and a collective of artists and creatives launched La Galeria, with work from Elizabeth Saenz, Alejandra Parody, Maru Mareira, Rocio Arango, Maite Osorio, Agustina Bartolelli, Isabel Amador, Maria Jimenez, Susan Adams, Felix Murillo, Gisela Sanchez and Andrea Raffo. Already the gallery is drawing in clients, especially with its Friday Noche de Art gatherings with wine and music.
“As the seasons picked up going into November, we have noticed a growing interest and increase of traffic,” he explained. “I think it’s going to be a great season. “
Other businesses that have opened or will shortly are Le Botti, a wine store; Antichi Sapori, an Italian restaurant; Alegria, homemade soaps and lotions; Pan American Insurance; Luz de Fuego, a candle store; Artetoda Atelier, a photographer studio; Macrobiotic Organic, alternative medicine; and RPM, a brand of the property management company based in Tamarindo and Langosta.