Bati Bleki, June 22nd, 2015

WHAT I LEARNED FROM COCA COLA. Did you know that under the slogan Share a Coke, the soft drink giant is now making personalized cans and bottles? On a recent trip to Target I noticed a huge display, front and center, with the entire alphabet of names from Ann and Andrew to Jimmy and Sara, you name it, even exotic, ethnic names, printed on the red and silver aluminum or plastic, with further personalization such as VIP, Sis, Best Friends, Trendsetter, Better-Half, Mom, Dad and Everyone, Bro, Legend and Bestie, also available. Did that elevate the simple act of drinking a sweet and sticky Coke into a more fun experience, you betcha! Coke will be organizing special events this summer in which consumers will be able to personalize two Coke mini cans, one to keep and one to share, across the USA, because as their website promises: This year, Coke found more ways to spread happiness! What’s impressive is how we all buy into that fictional reality, and how Coke found the courage and the determination to shamelessly save its business empire despite explicit evidence that ingesting its products leads to obesity and  diabetes. I searched the Coke name bank and did not find mine. I think I am going to sue them on the basis of discrimination, unfair and unjust treatment to minorities.

THE OPENING OF THE PARMIGIANI ART GALLERY. Parmigiani Fleurier is a Swiss watch brand of exceptional complexity and craftsmanship. It has recently made the Atlantic crossing landing in the USA, where the watchmaker opened an office in an art gallery, located in the Art District in Miami, Florida, on 39th street. We attended the festive opening this week, drank wine, posed for press pictures, mingled with clients and art lovers. It is a fun and novel idea, to pair an office of a luxury item with an art gallery showcasing the work of David Hayes, an artist who passes away in 2013. But first about the watch: The brand was established by Michel Parmigiani, an expert  watchmaker himself, in the town of Fleurier, Switzerland, with the idea of restoring the value of Swiss watch making art as heritage. The company has been making beautiful, immensely complicated timepieces since then. Recently three decades of good work paid off when Parmigiani Fleurier won the European Watch of the Year Award, in the Women’s category with its Tonda 1950s with a Mother of Pearl dial and 84 diamonds. As we speak, Parmigiani is talking to a number of top retailers in Aruba in order to introduce the watches, here, soon. The company has always been associated with art, yachting, and sports cars and its partnership with upscale pursuits has helped the brand attract super-discerning customers. Meanwhile, at the office, David Hayes’ exhibition focuses on the creative process, showcasing the artist’s maquettes, his studies, which led to the creation of art pieces displayed side by side with the welded and painted steel sculptures. I really recommend visiting the new Art District in Miami. As you know, good food gravitates to a neighborhood defined by art and fashion. We had delightful dinner at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, within the complex of the Wynwood Walls recently visited by an Aruban delegation. I hope they were inspired by the informal graffiti, and realized that art is the trailblazer of urban revival. We dined on crazy abundant tapas and delicious drinks!!

THE ART AND DESIGN DISTRICTS. Years ago, a hotelier friend drove me at night through Collins Avenue, and past the ocean front Lummus Park, in South Beach, Miami, telling me I was looking at the future. All I could see through the tinted glass windows of his car were small nondescript, square and squat old buildings with peeling paint and ancient people sitting in their rocking chairs on long balconies. I couldn’t understand why anyone would pay as much as they allegedly did, for those run-down buildings, I guess I don’t have the forward vision of fashion icon Versace, entertainer Madonna, or hotelier Ian Schrager. You guessed, I was looking at SoBe which immediately after my midnight tour turned into the glittery and trendy capital of fashion and fun, with overrated hotel room rates, and expensive through-the-roof dinner checks. Fast forward to 2015: I just completed a tour of the Design District in Miami and am asking myself the same questions, where was I when all this development transpired? I really recommend visiting the Design District, with the most outstanding fashion stores in the universe. What propelled all the CEOs of all the luxury brands in the world to come together and invest billions the way they did in that forgotten few city blocks in the north-east of Miami, including 1st and 2nd avenue?  And when I say ALL, I mean ALL, they are all there including Christian Louboutin, Cartier, Celine, Louis Vuitton, Dior Homme and Prada, Rolex, Hermes, Berluti and many more. Apparently, it started fifteen years ago with the vision of one real estate developer, Miami native Craig Robins, who spun his dream of art, dining and luxury retail, globally. The LVMH brands were the first to recognize his vision, and the rest is history, in a pedestrian-friendly environment, light-years away from the typical malls we learned to worship.  The new building’s architecture is amazing, and we parked under a Fly¹s Eye Dome at the entrance to the underground parking garage, leading to the wow Paradise Plaza. We ate lunch at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, which has been opened at that same spot since 2007, and offers a great menu on the patio in the shade, or in much-needed air-conditioning.  I appreciated when I read that the neighborhood became the first LEED ND Gold Certified project in Miami Dade County and only the 33rd in the entire United States, which means they are also super environmentally friendly!

GONE AND IMMEDIATELY FORGOTTEN. The former general manager of the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa got a promotion, he was whisked away to Minnesota to the corporate office, to a place blessed by −60 °F (−51 °C) temperatures during the winter months. So what did he do to deserve such punishment, you’re asking? He joined the resort at a difficult time, inheriting the job from a totalitarian, and slightly despotic leader. It worked in his favor, because then immediately his opinionated, direct nature and inherent informality was construed as friendly and easy going. Of course, with some exceptions, the French will always be elegant, the Dutch frugal, the Israeli prickly, and the Germans exact! South-Africans, besides being enthusiastic sport lovers, will always also believe in the so-called natural order of things, with men in starring roles, and women in supportive ones. And along the same lines, some hierarchy from within, with less valuable members of the working class VS. a more valuable elite inner circle. So here you have it. He cut costs like crazy, made the resort look good on paper. Lucked out with the closing of the Aruba Westin, having been handed lots of group business, making the resort look good, on paper. Wearing other people’s feathers regularly, made him look good, on paper. Exercising the executive committee and encouraging employees to lose weight, made everyone look good, not just on paper. Today, we’re on to the next chapter, with Hilton clearly visible on the horizon and meanwhile a caretaking general manager, and a veteran of hospitality in helping run the Grande Dame, Bob Holland, who as his resume states is an Independent Hospitality Professional with extensive Operations, Openings/Acquisitions, and Repositioning Experience. So far, so good.