Panama’s a small country, with a population of about 3.5 million, so they don’t have a big talent pool to draw on. Making it even more surprising that they can at least a dozen major league teams.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a playoff game between Los Santos and Herrera. In Las Tablas, where I’m living now, Los Santos is the home team.
It was a fun evening, and a great value for live sports entertainment.
Now, I have to be honest. I’m not a sports enthusiast.
Before this game, the last live sporting event I attended was in 1995 or thereabouts. Our older daughter was in marching band in high school, and during her senior year they did a half-time thing with band parents during a football game. So we showed up for our command performance to support the band and our daughter.
Back to the recent ball game. . .
Las Tablas has its own stadium, which was bursting at the seams during this game. Panama City has a spectacular new stadium, which sadly is never full, but the Los Santos supporters always make a good showing.
Along with my expat neighbors, I had a seat in the front row behind home plate. Cost? A whopping $5.
The evening was enlivened by the antics of a local businessman. Jim owns a sports bar/restaurant called Ponchalos (“Ponchalo” means “strike out”).
Jim, an expat from the Boston area, goes to the games in face paint, a bushy orange wig (orange is Los Santos’ color) and an orange Ponchalos t-shirt. When the opposing team has two strikes, Jim whips into action.
Holding up a sign, he stands in front of the crowd yelling “Ponchalo! Ponchalo!”
Soon they’re chanting with him.
Jim believes It’s good promotion for his business. He’s capitalizing on the Panamanians’ love of baseball in his marketing.
And he gets lots of attention. Recently he was asked to throw the first pitch, an honor usually reserved for visiting dignitaries.
Ponchalos serves American-style food: hamburgers, fries, chicken wings, chili dogs, and pizza are on the menu.
Expats, no matter how willing they are to integrate into the local community, still hunger for the familiar comfort foods of home, and Jim’s trying to supply that need. He’s a good example of an expat seeing a need, finding a niche, and building a business around it.
Another US expat came to Las Tablas to retire. But when local friends found out about his background as an electrician, they started begging him to work on their properties. He keeps as busy as he wants — maybe a little too busy, in fact, and he never looks for work.
There are lots of needs that could be filled here. I’ve spotted several (all food related. . . hmmm. . .).
For example, there’s no coffee shop in town. I’d love to have a place where I could go for a good cup of coffee and conversation.
Fresh vegetables here are a bit of a challenge. I think someone could do well offering a weekly service to bring in fresh, organic produce. And if they could find a way to supply some kind of lettuce besides iceburg, I’d pay a premium for it!
Or how about peanut butter — the real stuff, not the kind that’s full of added sugar and hydrogenated oils which are so unhealthy.
Here’s an idea that’s not food related — my husband, who’s an avid bicyclist, is considering putting together some bicycle tours.
Lots of expats open hostels, B&Bs, hotels, bars and restaurants. But if you’re thinking about starting a bricks and mortar business here, there’s lots of expertise that’s needed.
While not the portable careers I usually write about, there’s lots of room here for entrepreneurs to start all sorts of profitable businesses.
photo courtesy of Ponchalos.com