One of our oldest friends here in La Antigua has a successful, long-established business on the Calle del Arco. I’ll leave readers to guess which one based on what I am about to say.
He once explained to us the principle of all long-thriving negocios here: you have to be selling something pretty unique, something that the local would-be copycats cannot easily duplicate.
Trends come and go in this town, almost all distinguished by the arrival and subsequent besieging of the first movers. Cyber cafés, spas, coffee shops etc. The general effect is of a xerox machine out of control. A phenomenon that economists tend to refer to the as the overgrazing of the commons.
Outright clones like Pollo Granjero are a common enough phenomenon, yet few have the longevity.
The other day we were reflecting on how many of the businesses that were here when we met have kept going all these years.
Almost all the survivors have been offering something sui generis, have built a brand resistant to mimicry, or have always been the sort of businesses that never really had to turn an actual profit.
There really aren’t that many on our list. Back then there was no Bodegona, no Frida’s, no Monoloco, no La Casbah...no Macdonalds or Burger King even.
There were however certain establishments which even then gave the impression of having been around almost eternally, with the clear intention to remain unmoved on the same spot forever — Doña Luisa Xicotencatl, La Fonda de la Calle Real, Doña Maria Gordillo, Cafe Ana, La Mariposa, La Canche. Doña Luisa perhaps embodies the perfect package of brand, location and offering.
Then there are those like Quesos y Vino, La Cenicienta and El Sereno which have evolved, changed premises, expanded, though one can still almost guarantee dining utterly alone at the latter. Others like La Hamburguesa Gigante that have persisted only as a disembodied name.
Welten has changed too, but in ways that make me think that I am observing it today as if from a self-propelled deep submergence vehicle drifting through a deep ocean wreck.