Family business, Costa Rica style

Dropping out of the clouds over San José, Costa Rica, you get the feeling you are a long way from Canada.

The view includes a few modern buildings, but many of the residences are walled and you discover as you drive past in your rental car that the walls are commonly topped with razor wire — a reminder that Costa Rica is low-crime and low-risk for tourists, but has its local problems with pilfering and burglary.

Out of town and headed north on Hwy. 1, the Pan-American Highway, the impression is reinforced as you roll along mountainsides and into valleys that the normal rules simply don’t apply. The road is favoured with scattered fruit stands and small cafés locally referred to as sodas.

Soon after San José, the multi-lane freeway narrows on its way north, and, as you pick up the cadence, you get the strong sense that the high-speed game of dodge-’em you are involved in may rely more on reflexes than on brakes, as there is no way to confirm the rollicking transports whizzing by in both directions have ever been inspected.

Twisting in and out among the many hills and rivers, you soon sharpen your attention to turn-outs on the side, since the driveways of the shops and sodas are gone in a blink, and the road makes no accommodation. Suddenly, you see a likely attraction, hit the signal and brakes simultaneously and peel out of traffic into the exposed and dusty showroom of Mundo Rústico. Rustic World.

Mundo Rústico was started about three years ago by the Chavarria Aguirre family, including Alexander Chavez Mesén, father; Mercedes Aguirre Salvatierra, mother; and Geovani Chavarria Aguirre, son; along with an occasional helper, and their stock-in-trade is exactly what it says. Rustic.

Row upon row of tree slabs adorn the open-air aisles in Cenizaro or Monkeypod (Albizia saman) , Cedro or Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata) , Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum ), Laurel (not sure which species), Teka or Teak (Tectona grandis) and Espavel or Cocobolo (Anacardium exelsum) , and it is clear to the Canadian eye that these exotic sizes and shapes would be the ideal ticket to draw customers to a northern showroom.

According to Mercedes,  they have a strong flow of North American tourists that stop by to look, buy a few small items and take down the company’s number, but they rarely get a call back on their signature boardroom table-tops from the north. That market, she says, remains largely local, with the larger pieces selling in the range of $250 US.

Language is a problem, since none of the family is fluent in English, but Mercedes says each of their presentation pieces is dried and treated for insects, and a call to Canadian Border Services Agency in Canada confirms that all that is needed to import slabs to Canada is a phytosanitary certificate, which can be issued by the government of Costa Rica. That assumes the slab has been stripped of its bark. To import wood with the bark on requires an additional import permit available from CBSA.

If you are interested, find a Spanish speaker and call 011-506-85-52-96-76. This story was made possible with the assistance of Tomás Montes Torres.


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