Even for them, this has been a busy couple of months. The 2nd annual White City Ball is less than a week away, and down the street, they are putting the finishing touches on their new tienda/café in Parque Santa Lucia. Meanwhile, they’re taking in guests daily and throwing private happy hours nightly at their casona-scale guesthouse, Villa Verde Mérida. Did Michael Berton and Robert Klie really have time for an interview? No, but they paused for a quick chat, anyway.
You have a lot going on right now! A gala fundraiser you’re organizing is coming up, as well as the inauguration of your second Merida business, Botella Verde. That’s a lot on your plate all at once. How are you coping?
You’re nice enough to open up your guesthouse, Villa Verdé Mérida, to the annual White City Ball fundraiser to support local artisans. What’s different at the ball this year? What can guests expect?
Robert: This year the ball is coming along beautifully. Guests can expect more great food this year – several wonderful restaurants and caterers are providing some incredible hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Lots of great music and dancing along with live trova in our “chill” area. The auction items are fabulous this year — bring your wallet (the white one of course)!
That’s right, I remember last time everyone was asked to wear white, and most everyone did! That was stunning. Around the same time, Botella Verde is opening. Can you describe the concept?
Michael: Botella Verde is the sort of small casual place that we and our guests would like to frequent – casual atmosphere with light food, wine, beer and many locally made artisanal desserts, breads and gourmet ice cream. A place where you can pop in wearing shorts and sandals for a quick espresso or that reasonably priced glass of wine and a salad. Almost tapas.
That sounds like the perfect “next thing” for Santa Lucia. What has moving from the U.S. to Merida taught you?
Robert: That your office can be anywhere you make it — beside the pool, on a lounge – or one of the beautiful squares.
Michael: It has taught me that it really is a bit magical here – so much occurs which cannot be attributed to just coincidence. Love it!
What advice would you give to anyone from north of the border who has decided they’re going to be like you and move here and, rather than retire, start a business?
Michael: We both are asked this many times by our interested hotel guests. We tell them to visit here often to get to really know the city and its dynamic, its feel. Really explore what would be successful here and be very open to changes.
Robert: We completely love it — but everyone has such different expectations.
One last question, a kind of a curveball. If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?
Robert: An iPad, the internet and Netflix
Michael: Malbec, Chianti Classico and maybe a Côtes du Rhône …
Sounds like you were prepared for that question! OK, one more question then: What inspires you, or keeps you in a positive frame of mind? Is it music? Spirituality? Art?
Michael: We both practice yoga – real yoga that includes meditation. It helps to clean out those cobwebs and daily frustrations in mind and body. We are also very very fortunate to live in a space that is so inspirational – surrounded by plants, birds, music, sounds of running water, etc. Your environment is key.
Tickets to the second annual White City Ball were still available when this interview was posted. This year’s White City Ball is set for 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 18 at Villa Verde Mérida on Calle 56 #468 x 53 y 55. The gala event will include music, dancing, complementary botanas from some of your favorite restaurants and caterers, a cash bar and silent auction. Some local hotels and B&Bs are offering a discount for visitors. More details here.