San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Browsing Under Cover: Liberia Mall Takes Shoppers Seriously

UNTIL recently, the Guanacaste shopping experience has included various souvenir and artisan stands, supermarkets, clothing and surf shops, with the odd pharmacy and entrepreneur filling a community need (computers, cell phones, hair and personal care, spas, etc.). If one wanted a full selection of quality household goods, electronics, CDs, brand-name clothing or even simply a change of pace, many would make the trip to San José.

With the opening of Plaza Liberia over a year ago, the intent was to render that journey unnecessary.

When the doors opened at the threestory shopping mall, its main feature was the quad movie theaters and a store or two.

This March, however, things at the Plaza were really busy, especially for manager Luis Alejander, who oversaw the grand opening festivities for the center’s newest occupant, Mundo La Gloria.

On the first floor, Mundo La Gloria is an offshoot of a popular San José department store; however, the Liberia branch sells only clothing, albeit a fine selection. And shoppers need not worry about cash for their desired goods, because soon Banco Costa Rica will open a facility just across from La Gloria.

ANOTHER flagship of Plaza Liberia is Fischel Drug Store, which opened last August on the second floor. According to Administrator Marleny Rodríguez, the pharmacy is popular because people recognize the name – Fischel is a popular San Jose chain – and know it has all the medicines and supplies in one place. This pharmacy is open on Sundays.

Just across the way from Fischel is a franchise of Quique Surf Shop.

“We’ve done much better than expected,” reports the store’s Yessenia López, explaining that the new location has afforded the opportunity to throw events, such as a recent Billabong party, which drew customers from Liberia and well beyond.

Other familiar names at Plaza Liberia include a Fuji Film booth, Penny Lane shoes, Qué Nota CDs and DVDs, Hallmark cards and gift shop, Pronto women’s clothing in the same store as Armi for men, Altamar Skate & Surf and Bijoux Bellox en Bisuteria accessories.

Although a new name to Costa Rica, Naturana has been quite popular since opening last month. This lingerie store is unique to the area because it sells imports from France and Germany and has a wide availability of sizes. The owners are father and son Bernal and Sebastian Mesen, who saw an opportunity and took it. The Mesens also own the mall’s branch of the popular Exitos music shop, which opened in November 2003. Again, the business has been “much better than expected.”

“We were prepared to have 1 to 1 ½ years of hard times, but since we opened, sales keep going up and up,” says Sebastian. “We get lots of tourists, but really more locals come in than tourists. It’s all relative, because 10 locals may come in and one or two buy, but out of four foreigners, probably one or two will buy.”

ON the other end of the second floor is the

Food Court

, laden with tables and chairs, but only two services are open. Cocina Mediterrania is owned by Marco Nikola Ferrari, Silvia Castillo and Rosa Esmerald González, and draws on the proprietors’ mix of Italian and Costa Rican heritages to serve pizza, pasta and typical food. They are already “happy with things, so we look for lots of money in the future and many tourists.”


Food Court

also includes an ice cream shop called Sorbe Heladeria, and there are talks to fill the other slots with chains and private restaurateurs.

On the third floor, where the movie theaters reside and lots more shopping slots wait to be filled, is a Made in India booth selling clothing, jewelry and natural medicines from that country; a Spring Shop clothing store; and Interiors, the exclusive representative in Central America of Mill’s Pride “Quality Cabinets Made Easy.” At the far end is a game room called Centro De Tukis, where kids can partake in such pleasures as Home Run Hitter, Ridge Racer, Pop A Ball and the extremely popular Bozo the Clown Basketball.

Games, food, and shopping aside, the movie theaters are still the crown jewels of Plaza Liberia, having steadily drawn nationals and tourists who previously relied on videos or movie channels for theatrical entertainment. Some, like 24-year-old Liberia resident Fabiola Nuñez, see an average of two current-release movies per week. Nuñez doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.


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