(This article was originally posted April 1, and updated after Wednesday’s grand opening preview party.)
Mérida, Yucatán — Hundreds of visitors on Wednesday night got a taste of things to come at Mercado 60.
The gourmet market and its 18 high-end restaurant stalls opens to the public on Thursday, May 12 — a week from today.
Mercado 60’s owners, Guillermo Acosta Simón and Natalia Uprimny Salazar, blended their worldly tastes and spiritual convictions, then they convinced a host of local restaurateurs to join them in the Centro. They spoke to Yucatán Expat Life about their project:
You are building Mercado 60 in a location that’s right between two busy places — Santa Lucia and Santa Ana parks. How does your project fit in?
Well, it was not easy to find the perfect place for Mercado 60; actually, there was no plan originally to do the mercado. We were looking for a nice old house to open a second Central Gourmet [their restaurant in La Ceiba]. Some people were offering us a very cozy, small place on the corner of 60 and 55, but when we contacted INAH to see what we could do and not touch, they opened our eyes and we decided to keep looking for something in better shape. That’s when we found No. 461. We talked to an architect to design the project with a big parking lot and a little herb garden, but suddenly remembering my dreams of the past, the mercado came up again, and we decided to make the new project with a famous developer (MAPA) from Mexico City. They designed the project in only one day, and it was so amazing that we decided to start building it. Calle 60 is the best street to build any business for tourists and locals.
How did you convince other restaurateurs and entrepreneurs to join you in this venture? Are these people running their own restaurants elsewhere?
Actually, it worked so good, that we didn’t need to convince anyone, or look around for almost anyone (we only looked around for the best sushi, Tokio 07, and Lebanese food; the owners are the ones of Club Libanes). Everything was word-of-mouth between restaurant people. Yes almost 90 percent of the restaurants have experience with other restaurants here or somewhere else. For sure the project helped a lot, and the trend right now are gourmet and culinary markets.
I understand you have traveled extensively and lived in other countries. Is there one country, or one particular market, that inspired you over all others when you conceived Mercado 60?
Yes. I have lived in Spain, France, the U.S. and of course, Mexico. I lived for 11 years in Madrid, where I met Natalia. We are super mega fans of good food and atmosphere. We are more than convinced that the atmosphere has to do a lot with culinary experience. We have traveled to Barcelona, New York City, Mexico City, London and Madrid searching for the best gourmet and culinary markets, and we took all the good things from all the markets, and added some ideas of our own. I could say that my favorite markets are in Mercado de San Miguel, San Anton, Platea and La Nacional — all in Madrid or Barcelona.
The style of your particular mercado is so distinctive. Can you explain the feng shui elements at work here?
Well, MAPA developed the project in three semi circles, based on the Hunab Ku [an ancient Mayan symbol that is said to represent the Supreme God or the One Being] and fused it with feng shui. (Natalia and I are very spiritual guys.) We believe that the circles allow us to have abundance in all ways so all the energy can spread around the market and not stay in one corner. Besides the 18 restaurants, there are also going to be eight to 10 different stands for handcraft, accessories or gourmet products. In the rear of the market, we have a herb garden, where a teacher will show children how to plant their own herbs and plants, in the end they will get a little plant souvenir. There’s also a lot of art. All the walls will be painted by famous muralist. The first muralist arriving tomorrow is Rod Villa, from Mexicali. Live music every night, art, performance, folk dances, Mayan rituals, etc. It will be pet friendly and bike friendly as well.
Who do you picture to be your typical customer? What will attract them to your market?
The tourists, foreign people and locals. I believe it is attractive because of the different experience. Sitting with people you don’t know [at communal tables]. Having so much amazing food to eat, and drinking the best quality cocktails in town (we are having an amazing bartender I used to work with in Spain). Live music and shows … also we will have theme parties once a week where we will have costumes, etc…
What business experience do you have that is helpful to you now?
I used to be involved with tequila and other spirits business in Spain and Mexico that allowed me to get in touch with amazing chefs around the world, and had the privilege to see inside their kitchens. I love to party and love to see people and of course to cook and see the smile and gratitude of people. I decided to open my first restaurant, La Central Gourmet, and later on with my future wife Natalia, the second restaurant La Burger House (now both closed because of the Mercado 60 project).
And what can you tell me about both of you personally? How long have you lived in Mérida and what is your impression of the “White City?”
I have been living here one and-a-half years now, and Natalia just one year. I love Mérida, the people, the security, the respect for nature and animals. We love the cenotes, Sisal beach, pyramids and everything in this paradise. We are in love with this city — except the traffic, jajaja.
Visiting Mercado 60
Mercado 60 opens to the public on Thursday, May 12, at Calle 60, No. 461, Centro, between 51 and 53. Its parking lot is on Calle 51, between 60 and 58. Among the vendors: La Central Gourmet (tapas), Bistrola Pasta (pastas), Lego Pizza (pizzas), L’Baguette (baguettes), Bonbón (desserts), Wok60 (Asian), La Barra Central (cocktails), Poncho & Chel’s (barbecue), Tortilla Oriental (Oriental-Maya fusion tacos), Ki’o’och (Yucatecan), Estación Líbano (Lebanese), La Flauta (gourmet flautas), Tokio 07 (sushi), La Burger House (burgers, hotdogs, nachos), Pipiripau (microbrew and Mayan spirits), Sal Amar (cevicheria and seafood) and Verde Eat & Drink (green salads and juices). Follow them on Facebook and www.mercado60.com.