Lost Barrio – Open for Businessby Ben McNitt on Jun. 10, 2009, under Uncategorized
The Lost Barrio warehouse stores are open for business, but business remains agonizingly slow after a $1 million-plus fire seriously hit two of the stores and caused smoke damage to others last February.
“Business dropped 80 percent right after the fire, and although it’s rebounded some, we’re still down considerably and we’re entering the slow months of summer,” explained Mark Nathenson, manager of Eastern Living that specialized in hand selected 19th century Chinese and Tibetan antiques.
The fire was arson-caused, according to officials, and two of the stores in the warehouse row remain closed with plans to reopen in the fall.
The Lost Barrio stores are a true Tucson gem for furniture, accessories and imports from Mexico and around the world. They’re strung together is a series of warehouses – upgraded since the fire – just south of Broadway on Park Ave.
Nathenson said Eastern Living, that lost 1500 square feet of floor space in the fire, was without power for a month after the blaze. “People will come expressing surprise we’re open at all, thinking we’re been shut down since the fire.”
When they do come, they’re offered a feast of fine oriental craftsmanship available at few locations in the country and prices that can be about a third of what similar pieces fetch in Los Angeles or New York. The owner, Bianca Bao, prepares three shipments a year, from her buying trips in northwest China and other Asian locations.
Down the street at Aqui Esta, owner Marta Mendivil tells a similar tale. “It’s been very, very difficult. Closed for two months. No sales. But here we are, trying to make it. We’re confident we’re going to see our way through this.”
Aqui Esta, in business for 22 years, carries an array of Mexican imports and furniture crafted at carpenters shops here in Tucson and Nogales and a Nogales ironworks.
Marta and her daughter Edna do the painting in vivid, lively colors on several of the pieces on display.
“It’s not totally bad, but it is slow,” said Guberto Platt, president of Rustica, the oldest of the businesses along the warehouse row. “Many people called after the fire expressing their concern and it’s nice to know we have community support.”
After an initial 50 percent plummet in sales, Platt explains, “We’re hoping. We’re doing everything we can. We offer sales. We work with people when they come in. I’ve weathered 23 summers here and this is one of our lowest. But we’ll weather this, too.”
(Full disclosure: A few of my own pieces, not illustrated here, are on the floor at Aqui Esta.)