By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – For the last three-and-a-half months the building on the corner of Rua Garcia d’Avila and Visconde de Pirajá – an area of prime commercial real estate on Ipanema’s main shopping street – has been something of an eyesore.
Since the beginning of January renovations have been in progress following a blaze on December 13th last year which gutted the building that had housed a branch of Kikarnes (a well-known Ipanema convenience store) and a small ‘sapateria,’ or shoe-maker’s kiosk. “After the fire, I bought out the sapateria,” explains Antonio Meireles, the founder of the Kikarnes chain and owner of the building. “The fire started in our shop… it was some sort of electrical problem, so it was my responsibility.”
Meireles estimates that by the time the renovations are complete it will have cost around a million reais. He bought the building twelve years ago for US$1.5 million, and speculates that it may have increased in value by around ten percent since then. He estimates that the business has lost out on approximately R$900 million since the fire happened and is eager to get the shop re-opened.
Many of the buildings in this part of Ipanema are old and riddled with structural problems. The contractors working on the Kikarnes building, (which was built in the 1930’s,) have had to reinforce the roof with steel girders and re-wire throughout. It is a similar story a few blocks further East on Visconde de Pirajá at the bright orange, newly painted, former Limes Lanchonette.
“One day the whole place just completely fell down,” explained Felix Neto of Big Nectar, the snack and juice bar chain that bought the property shortly after it collapsed. “The building is over seventy years old… we have had to redo all the electrics and put in steel beams everywhere.” The new business is due to open on the April 15th, “It will be like our other bars, only a little more sophisticated… and it will be called just ‘Nectar.’”
The neighboring businesses are happy that Kikarnes will re-open soon. Mayomi Pinto, of Niki Sushi on Rua Garcia d’Avila, said, “When we saw the fire we called the fire brigade and raised the alarm with the owners. They are good neighbors and we are pleased that the work is progressing. We have not heard too much noise while work has been going on.”
The new, revamped Kikarnes is due to open its doors in mid to late May. The store is much loved by residents for being open on a Sunday morning when most places in Ipanema are still closed up: “We are open from 6AM to 10PM every single day of the week.”
As well as dry goods, the new store will have a butcher’s counter, fishmonger, bakery and fresh fruit and vegetables. It also stocks a range of the famous Brazilian Havaiana flip flops. Meireles explains, “It will have a small bar and barbecue which it didn’t have before, and the shop will be bigger and better! Everything will be new!”