Bloggers note: this blog post is three weeks old! I’ve had it mostly written, but life got so busy, I never got back to finishing and posting it. Since then, Bill & Elaine have returned to Canada for the summer, and I’ve been to the mall four more times! But I thought it best to leave it in its original format.
This week my good friend, Elaine, and I made a trip to Manta to check out the less than a week old new shopping mall!
I have actually known about this mall long before the general public. It was just after I arrived in Ecuador and was stuggling to correct my property/visa fiasco. One day I was in the office of my first (bad) attorney, and he couldn’t help himself from boasting and proudly telling me he’d just helped close a deal for a new shopping mall in Manta. He asked if I’d like to see the architectural drawings and showed me the artist renderings of the new project. I asked where it would be and he said, “Do you know where the abandoned olymipic sized swimming pool is?” I did – it was right in the heart of town, just across from the original SuperMaxi grocery story. I asked him how long before it would be open and he told me four years. That seemed like an eternity to this few months old new immigrant.
But I watched the spot, and sure enough some months later dirt began to move. Knowing that things usually take much longer in Ecuador than they say to accomplish (if ever), I wondered if I’d live to see it completed. But the earthquake really motivated them to step up the pace, with the goal of finishing it in time for the anniversary. They opened last Thursday, just a few days past, to a large and very excited crowd of 70,000 people (according to the local paper). I would have been among them, but was in Manta that day with my friends Mesfin and Elaine, both who didn’t want to go anywhere near the mayhem. However we did drive by a few times and witness the crowds and excitement.
On Tuesday, Elaine and I took the first bus in and last bus home, and still barely had time to scratch the surface! Elaine had previously told me she wasn’t really a mall person. I told her growing up in Dallas, a city full of shopping malls, I still usually only went once or twice a year, mainly at Christmas time to enjoy the decorations and festive environment. But even if I don’t care to go often, I just like knowing I have options, and this mall has certainly brought us many more options than we’ve had in this part of the country up until now.
The new Mall Del Pacifico is now one of the five largest malls in Ecuador, and that says a lot because there are many in Quito and Guayaquil that rival anything I’ve ever seen in my hometown of Dallas. The new mall is 120,000 square meters and has 200 business, as well as a section for medical offices. It will also soon open an attached seven story, 126 room hotel. The best part about all of this is the many local people that the mall will employee.
There are so many things that we couldn’t find in our grocery and other stores before, that we can now find here. Malls in Ecuador almost always have a mega grocery store in them, and this mall has transformed our small neighborhood sized SuperMaxi grocery store into a MegaMaxi (it’s basically like a Super Walmart or Target). Having spent a lot of time discovering some other new stores, we only had 1.5 hours in there on our first visit, and that wasn’t nearly enough – we needed at least four! So many more choices of food items we’ve never had access to here. Maybe still not everything we are missing from back in N. America, but I was so excited to find couscous, Dijon mustard and REAL maple syrup!
We discovered several other great stores as well. One thing that always makes me laugh in Ecuador is how stores will carry such an odd mixture of items that we would never put together in a store back in the states. Elaine and I went into one store and on one side it had all kinds of items for commerical kitchens and restaurants. On the other side was equipment and supplies for beauty salons! We finally realized the connection of supplying to these two professional industries, but it was so funny to have one aisle with cool kitchen gadgets and on the next, nail polish and hair dye!
Another new store we loved was called Almacenes Estuardo Sánchez. This was another everything store from housewares, to office supplies, kitchen items, toys, etc. But what really cracked me up was rounding the corner of looking in several aisles of plastic kitchen goods, to find a huge section of medical equipment! The thing we loved most about this store was their prices. We are used to many household and decorative items being quite expensive, but we found the prices in this store to be very low.
The only thing I was a bit disappointed in was the food court area. Official articles before the mall opened stated we’d have such new offerings as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and even TGI Fridays. But none of these were among the vendors, with no “coming soon” signs or even apparent space to be added later. Most of the restaurants are Ecuadorian fare, with the exception of KFC and Pizza Hut. But my favorite local cafe/bakery, Dulce y Cremosa, has TWO locations in the mall!
There is really a nice variety of stores and services (including four banks and a beauty salon). And since the mega grocery store is there, the mall can easily be the one stop shop for everything. All the places I taxied around to each week, now in one air conditioned location – sweet! 🙂
Below are a few more pictures (thanks to my friend, Ryan Kelly, for most of them off his Ecuador Shores Realty Facebook page):