Ever since the restaurant project didn’t work out with David’s dad, we’ve been in search of a commercial space to call our own. As it turns out, looking at spaces is super easy here. Not only is there an abundance of places to look at since practically everything in Torrevieja is either for rent, for sale or both, but a visit can usually be arranged within hours, and, in some cases, even instantaneously. On one occasion, we were passing by a location for rent and decided to call the number to see if it would be possible to visit it. Not only was it possible, but it turned out that the guy was just down the street and could show it to us right then and there. And, sure enough, not a minute later, he pulled up alongside us on his motorcycle. The visit was cut short by the fact that the space was not zoned as a restaurant, and he left just as quickly as he came. Barely five minutes had passed from the time of the phone call to his departure.
Meanwhile, because Torrevieja is small, running into the owner in a social – and not at all business related – setting is entirely possible. One appealing space was shown to us by the son-in-law of the owner. Weeks later, while hanging out at David’s dad’s restaurant, we met the owner who was there with his family. He knew who we were and took the opportunity to follow up with us in person as to whether we were interested in the restaurant.
And because everything is available, we’ve seen all types of locations – from a small 270 square foot space for rent right by the water for 750 euros a month to a gorgeous Italian restaurant fully equipped and ready to go selling for 600,000 euros. A bit skittish of such a seasonal town like Torrevieja, we’ve also expanded our search to surrounding areas and visited a huge empty space in a very central area of Alicante that needed full restoration as well as a tiny, cute space that needed minor work but was hidden away in a back street on the other side of the city.
It’s obvious that these spaces are vacant as a direct result of the dire economy but ask the agent why, and it seems as though everyone is sick or suffering from some kind of malady. There have been heart attacks, broken limbs, and urgent trips back to home countries. At first, it was alarming, but, after hearing the same reasons over and over, it has become obvious that they’re far from the truth; thus, we no longer bat an eye even when we’re told that the owners are on their deathbeds.
And just as the locations have varied, so have our ideas as we try to figure out what type of business would work best in Spain. We’ve played around with all kinds of concepts ranging from a food truck in the same outdoor omarkets where David’s family works to a small crepe stand on the promenade right by the water to a more extravagant restaurant. And, one by one, they’ve been knocked down.
We found out that the outdoor markets are regulated by a supervisor who issues out the space by meters. Space is tight and there’s a waiting list of interested vendors, but if you slip the supervisor a little extra something, we’ve heard that you can get a couple meters more. Paying off the supervisor was feasible, but when we found out that the food truck alone can cost 150,000 euros, the idea quickly made its way to the back burner. The crepe stand on the promenade got us excited up until the city official told us that a law had been passed in 1978 prohibiting such stands in cities with a population larger than 50,000 – Torrevieja is at 100,000. And many have warned us against concepts that are too extravagant, saying that the time is just not right to invest so much into a business.
We’re still looking and talking to as many people as we can. Since we’re new to Spain, I feel that we first have to get to know the region and the consumer habits before choosing the concept. And, while it’s a bit scary to start a business in these times, it also has its advantages in that at least everything’s negotiable.
But just when we were starting to feel like we had seen a lot, we saw something this week that was nothing like anything we’d seen before. And it was at that moment that we understood exactly how much more we have yet to learn about doing business in Spain… But that merits a post of its own which will be appearing soon.
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