Bati Bleki, August 4th, 2014

NEW RETAIL OUTLET, NUN K. Admittedly, Giovanni Rafini has a colorful personality. His previous claim to fame was Underground Cycles fashion boutique, festooned with radical choppers, rusty Rat Rods and the tattoo parlor. He moved them from their original humble location on the boulevard to an ambitious spot in the back of Palm Beach, under the neon Rat Land sign, hoping to gain more access to visitors. The adventure was costly, and the only one getting rich from the deal was the man who loaned Giovanni the money to build. Chapter closed, we move on. These days with a new fashinista girlfriend, Stephanie Merts, a worked-out, tattooed, and cheerful Giovanni may be found at Nun-K Aruba below De Olde Molen, a small, trendy boutique open to the wee hours. The store is stocked with club outfits, cool jeans, and other must-haves, and is flanked by diverse neighbors Diana’s Pancake Place, an outdoor bar and a new car rental.

MORE OF ZEEROVER. I find out last, but apparently a few months ago, over a period of three-days, working nights, the pier at Zeerover, Savaneta, received a much-needed extension and may now accommodate more picnic tables overlooking the water, which is opportune because on a recent local holiday the restaurant fed 900 people in the span of just five hours, from a kitchen the size of a postal-stamp, which is totally admirable!

NICE MEETING ZANILLIYA. Many moons ago, I loved twirling on the dance-floor at Scorpio’s Disco to the tunes of Boney M. That was in my wild disco days, and I had no clue he came from Aruba. Recently however, I met his amazing daughter Zanilliya Farrell, an international artist with bona fide Aruban roots, who will release her first English EP under the name Electricity and Drums on Monday, August 4th. The EP’s first single ‘Raise Ya Flag,’ was just premiered on select radio stations here. All songs on the EP were written by Zanilliya, with technical help from her boyfriend/producer. She defines her style as Caribbean Grunge, and while it is not my favorite genre it is a catchy tune about us ladies, raising our flag of independence and self- reliance. Erin Croes and DJ Vibe graciously welcomed Zanilliya like a long lost princess, which she is, and played her music on Magic 96.5FM. The song also debuted on Cool FM with Indroh Kelkboom. Zanilliya, who only goes by her first name, enjoys a career as an entertainer and performer, and works on completing a Bachelor of Music degree. Daddy cool should be very proud.

JUST CHILL AT ARUBAVILLE. We spent a chillaxing evening at Arubaville bonding with new and old friends over a generous Beef Carpaccio and a delicious Ahi Tuna Poke. The vegetarian Green Iguana, a stuffed zucchini with goat cheese, also received good reviews. Nicknamed Little Hidden Jewel, we had a great time there, with restaurant manager Bas Frijters, who is as cute as he is cheerful. Visitors and locals are rediscovering that pier behind the airport, the former Marandi, on Bucutiweg 50, which underwent a complete transformation, and now features a more casual eat and drink experience at the edge of the lagoon, with a double-decker sunset terrace. Even the FunchiGals wrote about it in their blog. Arubaville now cooks a Sunday lunchtime BBQ worth paying attention to! Bas also told us the menu will be undergoing a refresh shortly, to include even more American, Cajun and Creole, Caribbean and Hawaiian specialties, including sandwiches, burgers with the accent remaining on seafood!

VISUAL MERCHANDISING SPECIALIST FOR HIRE. After spending some time at The Athlete’s Foot and its related stores Gregory Larmonie is now offering his professional services and expertise, globally in: Visual Merchandising & Space Management, Image & Branding Consultancy, Event Planning & Logistics (Fashion-related/Celebrations) and Fashion Buying. He is bursting with new ideas and concepts and excited to go back “to his roots,” and looking forward to meeting new challenges.

TROPICAL BOTTLING COMPANY OF ARUBA IS GROWING. I visited the Balashi beer brewery last week and was impressed how much it has grown. The place is a hub of activities, and I met Richard A. De Veer, better known as Turi in his office drinking a Malta Balashi. He offered me AWA, in a very friendly size, not too big, not to small, then gave me a short work-related overview of the company’s recent activities. They are busy, no doubt, and with the addition of the Bacardi label portfolio and the steady demand for Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey they are always on the go, providing products to every segment of the market, in all demographics from children to adults, young and old, Dutch, Spanish, and English speaking, men and women, who as consumers all require different approaches. To compound and excite things further, recently, a number of top wineries started to knock on the door, demanding bigger and better representation in the Aruban market, which the company is naturally considering, on its own terms, without just rushing into any situation. Good news, the improved Balashi Beer Gardens will be reopening soon. On a personal note, Turi is an environmentalist and champion of many causes, he loves his abundantly-creative wife Thannee, a film sound engineer by profession, and prefers a low key, under-the-radar approach, but I still found it hard to resist not to talk about him!

NEWS FROM SERGIO GALLERO. My friend Sergio Gallero whose recent business revolved around the sleeping Giant of Tonga, incidentally, a great success on the island, is setting up a new business, bike renting stations. While Aruba is not ideal for cycling, Sergio is bringing bikes to the island anyway, with the first station being built at the Palm Beach Plaza Mall. Day-tripping vacationers may swipe their credit cards and hop on a bike, then return it at any other station. Whether you’re big or small, young or old: Rent a Bike is for everyone, says Sergio. Also on his agenda, a December show starring his own son, Michel Gallero, 19, a magician and an illusionist, who knocked my socks off when he gave me a private performance at Taste of Belgium. From Caracas, Venezuela, the kid learned magic from his grandmother and started performing at the age of four. By the age of ten he regularly thrilled audiences with his craft, a theatrical mix of sleights of hand and quick fingers. So save me a few tickets for Michel’s debut on Aruba, the Alhambra Ballroom would be a perfect venue.

SMOKED BURGERS. The Hollywood Smokehouse, Alhambra Casino & Shops, serves incredibly tasty hamburgers flavored and hand-formed by Randy Gesing. If the name sounds familiar, it is. Randy is the son of master-butcher Karsten Gesing, chef and proprietor of Madam Jeanette restaurant. I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! Randy now supplies burgers to the Hollywood Smokehouse, and true to their name, they smoke them, low and slow, lending the patties extra special flavor. On Monday, on his off day, we found Chef Jan Scherrenburg who is responsible for the terrific food served at Barney’s on Palm Beach, with his wife Marlene Nichols, indulging his passion for burgers at the Hollywood Smokehouse bar. They are the best, he says.

CHIEF OF STAFF. If you’re looking for a chief of staff to replace Angel Bermudez, and fill the spot he vacated when he became our Minister of Finance, Peter Auwerde would be the perfect candidate, he knows the Ontvanger office inside out and he happens to be available, because he has not been working lately. Inexplicably, the directors of the Ontvanger were sent home, he told me, when I met him at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, he was cheering for his daughter competing in the culinary challenge of Art Rules Aruba. Anyway, he’s perfect for the Chief of Staff job. RC@visitaruba.com