THE STORY BEHIND… CALA LEÑA MARKET
Texto: Cat Weisweiller
the owner of its restaurant and surrounding land. They became firm friends and went on to collaborate on many things; including opening a minigolf course and bowling alley in the restaurant’s grounds, and creating an outdoor grill / live music / disco area with Theo arranging its legendary entertainment. In 1980, they even created the family’s café/pizzeria, Sa Punta Verde, just down the road. However, as time went by, both Juanito and Theo became busy with projects outside of the restaurants. By 1981, Cala Leña restaurant’s outdoor area – previously so abundantly lively – now lay dormant, overgrown and “lost”.
Thankfully, its sorry demise was not set to last indefinitely. A fateful trip to Columbia in 2009 with his wife of 13 years, Yanneth, and their 3 children (Luna, Jana and Kim) inspired Theo to reverse its fate forever. Being met with the vision of Theo proudly clutching yet another antique purchase – a vintage shoe shine stand of all things – his wife was compelled to ask why he didn’t just open up a second-hand shop. Somewhere between this passing suggestion and their arrival back in Ibiza, the planted seed had grown into something much more ambitious: a second-hand market. Theo approached his dear friend of 36 years, Juanito, and proffered the idea of reviving the grounds of Cala Leña restaurant for this very purpose. With their shared history and Theo living a mere stone’s throw from the restaurant (in the house he built on Juanito’s land in 1983) this seemed like an obvious choice. “Sure, why not? Do what you want, as long as you pay for everything!” came Juanito’s matter-of-fact response; at the time, he had neither budget nor inclination for such a bold scheme.
And so, after 28 years of forced retirement, the grounds of the Cala Leña restaurant underwent a complete face-lift. Theo’s friend of old and rastrillo right-hand man to this day, Olaf, toiling tirelessly at his side. In a matter of three months, and with the help of a few friends, they had transformed the place from an abandoned wilderness into the sprawling flea market that we know and love today. They couldn’t resist opening the very day that they received their long-awaited licence – 2nd October, 2009 – with a newly built open-air bar and playground in place, but only time to secure two market stalls. Today, they regularly have over 80 stalls with an expanding waiting list, and Juanito’s restaurant is invariably packed to the rafters.
Stallholders here share an unrivalled camaraderie; happily exchanging products amongst themselves and guarding one another’s stalls. Meanwhile, visitors bask in the market’s buzzing atmosphere, snap up household bargains and enjoy Theo’s carefully sourced live music in the outdoor bar area. Theo and Olaf manage the stallholders with their customary charm, whilst the formidable Juanito leads his team in serving a wide variety of à la carte table food – all the while skilfully navigating lines of people poised to purchase plates of takeaway paella. The indoor boutique by the office, run by Yanneth, is filled with Theo’s wares. On closer inspection, you’ll even find his beloved shoe cleaning stand; however, he is quick to point out that, “As a memento of how the market came to be, this is one item that’ll never be for sale!” All visitors are united in the knowledge that their appetite for buying or selling second-hand, antique or used goods – new items being strictly prohibited – is doing a world of good in curbing consumerism and thereby protecting the environment.
Thus it transpires that a passing comment has resulted in one of the island’s great success stories and, simultaneously, fuelled the timely resurgence of a struggling business. The market’s popularity is already easy to understand, given the undeniably welcoming and relaxed atmosphere that Theo and Juanito strive to maintain for stallholders and visitors alike. The wonderful story of enduring friendship and sheer determination behind its creation, only adding to its charm. So, next time you feel that familiar twinge of sadness as you pass some once loved, but now defunct, Ibicencan real estate – take heart, for a visionary like Theo may be just around the corner…