Business Evolution

Some people can take an empty space, envision greatness and then make their vision a reality. They have a knack for interior decorating and they wow people with the final outcome. Well, I’m not one of those people. I’m the type, actually, who arrives to college and moves into a room that’s empty except for a bed and a dresser. And it stays that way during the time that I live there. And while my roommates busy themselves with making their rooms feel like theirs, my greatest attempt at decorating mine is hanging a generic poster on the wall. While some see empty white walls as a canvas of creative and artistic possibilities, the four walls that surround me remain blank under my care, for blank walls don’t faze me – nor do they motivate me enough to do anything about them.

So it’s a good thing that I married someone quite my opposite in that regard. As David and I move around from place to place, he has been the one who has always made our apartments feel like home. It’s thanks to him that we painted the living room in our spacious 2 bedroom in East Harlem a cheery yellow so that our moods remained bright even in the dead of winter. He’s the one who lugged the mirror in the shape of a window back from Paris to add a touch of style to our New York space. He’s also the one who can magically hide chaos and make work areas more efficient. I surely appreciated the beautiful workspace that he created for me in our midtown Manhattan duplex by building a beautiful corner desk to maximize our small space. For me, decorating apartment after apartment makes me exhausted at the thought. For him, creating a home is his forte and he tackles each empty apartment with energy and inspiration.

Therefore, when Pepe gave us the keys to our new business, AlteArte, David had a thousand ideas of ways to improve the feel of the space and he immediately got to work even though we hadn’t yet signed any papers. He systematically tackled each area, and under his touch, things began to come to life. He single-handedly moved the hideously large cigarette machine to the bathroom upstairs so as to make the space downstairs feel less like a bar. He cleared out the area behind the bar and reorganized the appliances. By moving the ice machine to one side, it freed up the passageway so that two people could move around easily. Since the business doesn’t have a kitchen, he created a small workspace where he can prepare small tapas. He made and hung shelves, he added wooden palates that not only make us higher off the ground when standing behind the bar but also hides the tubing underneath that connects the appliances.

He transformed the stockroom, making it organized and much more efficient so that we can actually fit a full sized fridge inside – an important factor since we’re going to be serving food. He hung our small lanterns that once decorated our New York City apartment and found the perfect place for our mirror-that-looks-like-a-window. And the lamp that we had found abandoned in Torrevieja turned out to be the perfect accessory to hang from the sloping high ceiling.

And, as David worked relentlessly day after day, AlteArte slowly transformed from a simple bar to a space with character. And we fell in love with our little business more and more. And I suddenly took notice of the small details. Once I was no longer distracted by sticky floors that needed to be mopped and the shelves of prominently-displayed alcohol, I admired the castle-like door knobs, the wooden-beamed ceilings, and the little windows with cute shutters that looked out onto a pedestrian street. And it hit me that this charming little business that actually used to be a stable was just like Paco’s home. And I realized that even though we had gotten kicked out of our castle-like home, we had stumbled upon a fantastic replacement. And this time, no one could tell us what to put on the walls or that we had to be careful of the antique chairs. The space was ours to mold as we pleased.

And so David molded. And he hammered and sawed and painted and I… took pictures. And he coordinated a team of Alteans to get the business up to par. The carpenters came to get the staircase up to code for the license and Pepe kept his promise and paid for this major alteration. David arranged for the delivery of the coffee machine, provided for free by the coffee supplier. He found a plumber to connect the ice machine and the coffee maker to one pipe. He got Andreas, the furniture restorer that we had become friends with by hanging out at AlteArte, to fix the lamp that we had found so that we could actually put bulbs in it. And, much to my sister’s and my sheer dismay, he asked Paco, our old landlord, to install extra lights outside. Having seen the quality of work that he can do from the week living in his house, David even asked him to do the staircase, but Paco flaked on us after getting offered a better job, leaving David shocked at how he could have done that to him. Meanwhile, I was surprised that David had ever expected better. As far as I was concerned, Paco had done exactly what I had come to expect of him. And while AlteArte started looking like a construction site and a layer of white dust softly covered every corner of the business, I set to work painting the toilets. However, the combination of cheap paint from the Chinese bazaar and the poorly ventilated bathroom left me feeling sick to my stomach. I was forced to take frequent breaks and, by working a little every day, finally finished my one project days later.

And, in the very final stages, the owner of the huge foosball table that nearly took up the entire bottom level finally came to take away the table and free up the space for tables. And a gypsy came by with plants to sell. How odd that David had kept talking about plants and, now, here was a gypsy selling just that. His timing couldn’t have been better and we added some color to our little business.

And, throughout the process, we gained a better understanding as to why Spain is in such an economic crisis. We assumed that anyone would be eager for some work, but quickly realized how wrong that assumption was when David asked a carpenter that he had gotten to know through AlteArte for a price quote for three foldable tables. The job was straightforward and simple, but the carpenter came to measure the space, asked for a beer and promised to call with a price quote later that day. Well, that was a couple of weeks ago and we still haven’t heard from him. In the meantime, the carpenters who did the stairs have already completed the job. So now we have three tables that can fold down if the space gets too crowded.

And, we’ve gotten to know our neighbors. And, much to our delight, they’ve come to introduce themselves, and they seem pleased that we’re “moving in.” One even offered to bring us food from his house when he saw us working one day during lunch time. And the people don’t stop asking us when we’re going to open. In fact, people have even seen us inside and tried to enter, thinking that we were open. And we’ve felt embraced by the Alteans and hope that they continue to support us in our venture.

And, now, as I write this from the table at the edge of the mezzanine, I look down and see the foldable tables below and I look around and admire the marble tables that we have added to the mezzanine. After nearly a month of nonstop work, AlteArte is nearly ready to go.

And it’s just as David envisioned it. It’s warm and inviting. And, once again, David has created a space that feels just like home.

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15 responses to “Business Evolution

  1. WOW Sara!!! This place looks wonderfu. I can’t believe the before and after pictures. I can’t wait to come see it in person. I gotta say that David is one hard worker. I am so glad that your dream has finally become a reality. Congratulations yet again! Can’t wait to hear about the opening.

  2. That is just an incredible transformation! I am SO glad that you documented everything (quite well) with photos! THAT would have been my job, while you painted the bathroom, had I been there – and might I say that I am SO sad that I was not! It really sounds like, although there was a lot of hard work involved, everything came together amazingly! It is SO exciting – especially the last photo – of the two of you – priceless! Keep taking photos all along the way! The adventure has just begun….

  3. Congratulations! The place looks amazing! The little details add so much. All that hard work paid off! Best wishes in your new venture and when we make our way over to Spain, we guarantee a night out at AlteArte!

  4. How exciting! This is definitely better than reality tv. 🙂 Your hardwork will pay off.

  5. That’s so exciting! What a great team you two make. I can’t wait to see it in person one of these days.

  6. So true about David and his decorating! I remember when he was so appalled by the lack of glass covering Rachel’s and my coffee table in New York (sheer laziness on our part) that he went out and got us one. I’m so so so happy for you guys–AlteArte looks amazing and I can’t wait to have my first drink at the bar!

  7. What you are doing, Sara and David, is absolutely fantastic! We can’t believe all the work and ccreativity behind this! Hearty congratulations to both of you!

    In your typical modest way, Sara, you give most of the credit to David. Of course we know what a tireless worker Davuid is and how imaginative his creations are, but you definitely deserve much more of the credit than you are giving yourself. And for you it’s a matter of handling everything in a different language! Wow!!!

    The pictures are marvelous! The next best thing to being there!

    By the way we were hoping to beat Coral to the comments – but she and five others got there first!!! ):

  8. I LOVE it! I can totally relate to you having a place to fix up and your partner being wonderfully hardworking, but your place happens to be a really marvelous Spanish business! It really is gorgeous and you both have made it so inviting, I imagine you’ll be the most popular Alteans in short time. Congrats and best wishes!!

  9. All credit to you guys for an amazing job and cudos to you for doing this at so a low point in Spain’s economic cycle too! Good luck with your venture.

  10. How awesome. Thanks for all the pics of the before, during and after. I am so excited for you guys. Glad David had the ideas and vision and helped you to see this too.

  11. WOW!! That is so incredibly amazing!! Awesome job David and to you Sara, for taking all the pictures and sharing it all in such elegance. Wish I was there with you guys to celebrate. You’ve come such a long way and I can’t believe it’s all coming together so fast!! you guys rock!

  12. 🙂 !!

  13. Just in case you don’t plan on stopping by my blog today, I am letting you know to check it out 🙂

  14. I love that you wrote this article from the mezzanine!!! What a perfect way to merge your two jobs 🙂

  15. I have to say that I love all of your comments and truly appreciate all the support from everyone! Knowing that people are reading this and following along in our adventure seriously makes this whole venture all the more exciting and motivates me to keep on documenting our story! So thank you for the comments.

    Amy, it is my sincere hope that you, Louisa and Cameron will one day make it across the Atlantic and come to see our little business!

    Coral, if you had been the one documenting, the photos would have turned out way better. I wish you had been here, and we most definitely missed you at the private party. It most certainly wasn’t complete without my family in attendance.

    Cliff, your comment cracked David and me up! It’s a real honor to be better than reality TV!

    Mimi, that’s funny that you remember that. That’s a perfect example of what David is like. You might be seeing AlteArte in person very soon! Can’t wait!

    Mom and dad, thanks for believing in us!

    Melissa, I’m so glad you like it! Thank you for your comment!

    Melinda, I am honored to have received your award for my blog! Thank you!

    Niki, knowing that you like it makes me very happy. I know that you, too, have the ability to do amazing things with 4 blank walls!

    Rishi, so glad I got you to say something! That’s when I consider my blog to be a success! 😉

    Bree, you’re right, it’s the perfect way to merge my two jobs and that was certainly a consideration when we were thinking about AlteArte! 🙂

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