Not One but Two Small Businesses for This Expat Trio
Linda and Hellmut Pedersen and their expat venture in Panama called Chiriqui Mini Storage is a going concern between Boquete and David and has been for several years. However, now there is an interesting addition.
To summarize: She was a gemologist in the US, he was a landscaper, among other ventures, and they met and married in the 1980’s.
After two years sailing around the world they settled in Washington State and pursued careers there. They became disillusioned with the cost of living, government red tape, and a stressful lifestyle so moved to Panama in 2005.
After being in the real estate business for a short time they purchased a beautiful piece of property in Chiriqui province, filled it with shipping containers, and opened their doors for storage. In 2008 they acquired a partner, Penny Barrett, another US expat and it has been full steam ahead ever since.
However, these energetic people are not ones to “rest on their laurels” and are always searching for more unique projects to add to the business.
When they purchased their property a small furniture building shop operated out of one end of it, complete with a large roofed enclosure. When this man relocated his business elsewhere the search was on for something to replace him.
And, no surprise, they came up with an idea. Why not set up tables and put on a flea market? After researching the feasibility and legalities they went ahead in their own inimitable way. The area was prepared and tables were purchased. Advertising consisted mainly of a message on the local News Boquete website and word of mouth. They have perfect, visible highway access so erected a huge banner next to their mini storage sign announcing “Mercado de Pulgas” or Flea Market for the first Sunday of every month.
The tables are rented for a mere $5.00 plus an additional $2.00 if electrical hookup is needed. Each vendor is in charge of his own displays and sales. Some folks simply rent a spot and sell from the back of their vehicles.
Linda, Hellmut, and Penny have a resident manager for the mini storage who is Panamanian. He does yard maintenance, security, and all pertinent duties. Now he and his family attend the gate, assist in setting up tables, sell hotdogs, and do whatever is necessary for the flea market as well. Consequently they not only provide full time employment but a free home for this grateful family.
The flea market was an instant success. From the very first Sunday market all the tables were occupied and have been ever since. They now have not only crafts, clothing, housewares, books and DVD’s, furniture, electronics, and plants vendors but food stalls as well. The delicious smells waft over the area as browsers wander through the merchandise tables and can have a choice of hotdogs, pizza, smoothies, brochettes, and tacos, as well as bottled water and soft drinks. This provides a platform for a monthly community event and this May marked the second year in existence.
The gate opens at 10:00 am on market days. By 9:30 the highway is lined with cars and eager shoppers are lined up at the gate.
Consumers and vendors include expats from as far away as Boquete and David (each approximately thirty five minutes away) and all points in between, as well as the local Panamanian families.
It is a perfect Sunday outing and word has travelled fast. It is a chance to bargain hunt, visit, and have lunch all in one location.
Such a simple premise and since they already owned the property their startup costs were very low. Plus, it is excellent exposure for the storage business.
Being friendly, easy-going, and genuine “people persons” they enjoy the camaraderie and hustle and bustle of their market days every bit as much as their vendors and customers do.
Hellmut, Linda, and Penny all love Panama and would not consider returning to the US or Canada. And, knowing them, they will always be on the lookout for a new challenge and another income booster for their property.
Which just goes to show that opportunities abound in this ever-developing country, whether it be a full out business or a small income addition. The opportunities are out there. All that is needed is an imagination and the knack for seeing a need and filling it.