Here’s why we wanted to live in the Centro. I wanted to be able to walk to things, and indeed, we walk to the Paseo de Montejo and Santa Ana market almost every day. If it’s early, before the heat rises, we walk to Walmart, which is about a mile away. Maybe we’ll get a cab back home if we’re lugging too many things.
But if it’s too hot, or the destination is too far, here I begin to start bumming rides. I haven’t done this since college, when I was one of the carless people on campus. “Hey, you goin’ to Costco? Want company?” I feebly attempt to make it seem like a win-win proposition, like I’m suggesting a buddy-buddy adventure together, but we both know I’m actually being done a favor.
Some of these trips have been eye openers. Joanna took us to The Home Store at the Altabrisa mall. It reminded us of Bed Bath & Beyond back home, and January was a time of 20 percent-off sales throughout the store. Between that and the favorable exchange rate, we did pretty well.
Across the mall, we went to the housewares section of Soriana, where we got stacks of both ceramic and glass plates and little square bowls that ended up being good for serving nuts or chips to guests. It was funny to see such a plain store in the upscale Altabrisa, but I suspect Soriana will be my go-to-spot for groceries when we’re here fulltime.
Then, our friend Michael took us to a place we had never heard of, and to a place we knew about but never really explored. The first one was Almacenes Anfora, which looked a little like an old-school Woolworth’s, if Woolworths sold only kitchen supplies. Prices were good, and you could ferret out good-quality merchandise. We haven’t brought down our beloved Le Creuset pots, but I’ve wanted something to make rice in. Most pots I’ve seen almost floated up in the air when I lifted them. How do people manage with such lightweight cookery? But the Pyr-o-Rey (not quite Pyrex) glass bakeware? We’ll have to see over time if it stands up to the more famous version.
Across the street, we checked out Rivero, which I remembered because their sister store faced the late, great Esperanza guesthouse, where we used to stay. I suppose under the dust there would be something there worth grabbing, but we didn’t see it. Again, pots that appeared substantial on the shelf appeared to be a child’s toy on closer inspection.
One thing all the stores have in common is the old-fashioned customer service. We all know how tough it is to return bad merchandise, and we’ve been stuck with some clunkers (hello broken plastic storage container from Superama and busted up hangers from Walmart), but we got attentive, energetic service while shopping. Young clerks did not hesitate to run to the back for something, or gather some items at the register. At Soriana, a clerk went to the back to find some more of what we wanted, and he tracked us down to give them to us. At checkout, everything was individually wrapped in paper like it was fine china.
Then, yesterday, I stopped in the Gran Chapur, a locally-owned mid-1980s downtown department store that oddly brings a touch of suburban mall-ness to the historic center. Clean and white, the store is loaded with plaid shirts from Dockers and Chaps, numerous perfume counters, and a giant fabric section with a squadron of women armed (in Grace Bros. type uniforms no less) carrying yard stick and poised to cut up a bolt of cloth for you. I didn’t expect any big bargains or unusual merchandise, but I was curious to finally roam the store, which appeared well-run and organized, but wasn’t exactly teeming with shoppers. The Waldo’s dollar store across the street was better appreciated by the bargain-hunting public.
And now our kitchen in Mérida is ready for simple stay-at-home meals or unpretentious entertaining!