Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Devil is in the Details

Over the past few weeks, we’ve begun to understand why houses here in our corner of Costa Rica all look more or less the same. The truth of the matter is, design options are severely limited by the supplies the hardware stores are able to stock. Basic building materials are easy to find ~ concrete, wood, nails, tubing ~ but special items needed to finish a “non traditional” house are about as easy to find as a Democrat in South Carolina.

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been searching for the hardware to make our sliding doors actually slide and shut. We were finally able to find one company that imports rails and rollers from Italy, so the sliding issue has been resolved, but we’re still struggling to figure out how to keep the doors shut. We found one nice “American style” mechanism with a simple butterfly lock at a specialty store in San Jose, but at more than $1,000 to outfit our 18 doors, we need to go to Plan B! Patrick is considering altering another mechanism he found with super glue, but glue and locks aren’t usually a very good combination. We’re starting to wonder if we really need doors after all…

We’ve had similar problems finding the length of glass we need for our restaurant windows and the nails we need to construct our deck. It took more than a week to receive our exterior paint (special order from San Jose), and when we realized we needed a darker color, we were reluctant to change for fear of the delay.

Needless to say, we’re in the final stage of construction and are almost done. Unfortunately, we don’t quite know how long “almost” is going to last, but we’re hoping to resolve these devilish details sometime before Hell freezes over.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Making an Entrance

From an early age, those of us from societies where consumerism reigns supreme learn the importance of packaging in promoting products in the marketplace. We beg for the cereal with the coolest super hero on the box, and despite parental warnings, we inevitably judge books by their covers.

Here in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, where there are few books to choose from, and bags of rice all look more or less the same, people generally just take what they can get without much concern for packaging. The same holds true for restaurants. Of the handful of dining establishments within an hour´s driving distance from our place, you´d be hard-pressed to find one that didn´t have a standard-issue neon beer sign hanging over its door with the restaurant´s name in small block lettering -- a free gift from the beer company in exchange for supplying the local bubbly.

Despite our desire to blend in with the local community and follow established norms and customs, we have decided to do things a little differently with regard to packaging our jungle retreat. Our customers will get their first impression of Morphose from the road, so we have made a concerted effort to have our entryway reflect the quality experience we intend to deliver. The gate is made with the same teak and sandstone as our restaurant and has a similar Asian design. To create a welcoming feel, we have removed the fencing that once encircled the property and replaced it with a border of miniature Birds of Paradise.

So far, we seem to have succeeded in generating positive buzz about our new place. Now, when describing the location of our property to new acquaintances, there´s an immediate recognition when I mention our gate. One day, I drove up to the entrance to find a truck full of people having a picnic. At first I thought they might be delivering some construction material, but I quickly realized they had simply chosen our entrance as a pretty place to stop and eat. When I mentioned this encounter to Patrick, he chuckled and told me that he had heard that our entryway has become sort of a Lover´s Lane for local teenagers on weekend nights!

We can only hope that the clients we attract with our special ¨packaging¨ will be genuinely happy with the surprise they´ll find inside.