Panama, Casco Viejo, Santa Ana
Panos has a lifetime in Santa Ana. His Café Coca Cola has literally been a historic reference for over a 100 years. (He isn´t a 100… but…) He does know everybody and from a long time! It was not a surprise when he suddenly asked me if I had sold a local to María Josefa Campos. I asked him how did he know her, and he said “for years! Her fabric store has been here forever. With her husband, she used to come to the Coca Cola often for breakfast, wonderful people.”
Born in 1934, María Josefa is 87 and still the dynamo of her business. Originally from the South of Spain, she still preserves her Sevillano accent. When asked how did she get to Panama, she flashed a big smile and said “dancing!”. She came as part of a Sevillana dancing troupe back in her youth. The elegance of her movements already gave me a hint; as a dancer I could immediately picture her in her “tablao flamenco” castagnets and all. I told her I was never able to master them, and she laughed, saying they were not that difficult. She still practices from time to time. She got married and made her life in Panama. Over twenty years ago her husband sadly passed away, but María Josefa carried on with the business, renaming it “Almacén Nuevo Especial”.
“I used to design my fabrics”, she said. The original “Almacén Especial” was purchased by the couple back in 1973 and since then has served a loyal clientele from the indigenous tribes of Panama, especially from Guna Yala. Walking in, you are welcomed by colorful fabrics everywhere and a wonderful photo of María Josefa in the traditional Guna dress surrounded by women in the comarca. Another photo shows her in a Feria de Sevilla, sitting proudly under an unbelievable mola canvas at least three times her size. A piece of that size and complexity must have taken at least a good group of highly skilled women and a year to complete. It was a masterpiece.
Today, young Panamanian fashion designers are re discovering these fabrics and creating a new millennial audience for them. From accessories like bracelets and necklaces to runway pieces for Panama Fashion Week.
Now, from her new local in Casa Balcones, her store is more comfortable without sacrificing location, and with the possibility to increase her market. Knowing that the local has 30 years with no property taxes puts at easy everyone involved with the business. For us, having such a special business in La Quince is a great satisfaction. What a beautiful way to get the commercial life of the La Quince started! Reinventing something that has been there… all its life.
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