By Tiffanie Reynolds, Staff Writer
With the goal of boosting small businesses and attracting local shoppers, Plaza Del Sol unveiled El Mercado in Kissimmee on Wednesday.
Formally the Osceola Square Mall, Plaza Del Sol holds 34 local businesses under the look of a Latin village marketplace. Each storefront is painted in a different color, with decorative windows mounted above for the appearance of the shop’s “second floor” and all standing under a painted sunny sky. At least 75 percent of the business owners are from Osceola County, according to Plaza Del Sol officials, and sell products from bathing suits and clothing to services like computer repair.
“You create this Mercado, which is a virtual anchor, and it allows tenants to come in, vendors to come in, small business people, and it gives them all the support that they need to start their own businesses, and, eventually, they migrate up to larger tenants,” said Andrew Brown, president of Bayshore Capital from Toronto, Canada and proprietor of the mall.
Brown and others from Bayshore Capital bought the property about a year and a half ago. Looking at local demographics to identify the mall’s clientele, Brown quickly saw the percentage and growth of the Hispanic population in the county, and decided to use Plaza Del Sol to highlight and support that population. El Mercado was designed to directly support the entrepreneurial spirit of Osceola’s population by providing smaller storefronts at cheaper rates to get new businesses started in the mall.
Providing a space exclusively for small, local businesses is a new concept for many malls in the United States. Brown said that he’s only seen six other malls in the country catering to small business through rent and space, and Plaza Del Sol is the first in Osceola to offer it.
“It’s an international concept with a Latin theme. We tried to recreate the village, like in Spain, like in Turkey, those squares where the big businesses and the small businesses both marriage together. This is something that the mainstream is not used to in this country. We’re bringing something, a different kick, for the community to experience something different. To browse around, look around and say, ‘Wow, this is unique,’” said Arturo Adonay, concept developer for El Mercado.
It took Adonay and the rest of the development team almost a year to come up with the first phase of El Mercado. Future developments for this small business concept include expanding El Mercado to the other end of the mall, providing more space for small businesses, scheduling weekly entertainment events on the new stage built at the center of the mall to attract shoppers and adding other local touches such as a family restraint and a Latino-themed grocery store.
El Mercado will hold a public grand opening today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with entertainment and giveaways accompanying the local shops.