Many people ask us how we managed to get into this business? In our first newsletter we did give a thumbnail sketch of what took place to see us now ‘retiring’ to MEXICO. For those of you who are curious here it is again.
Once upon a time…. there were two young people very much in love in the best city to do that in, MONTREAL. They were newly-wed in July of 1966 and were planning to launch a new company on the coattails of EXPO 1967. The company was to be called AERIAL SIGN CO., which transformed to SKYCOM of CANADA Ltd. The launch was a Canaveral type with delays but in Dec. of 1967 the company which had to sub-contract during EXPO got its license to operate a commercial air service Class seven AIRA (aerial inspection reconnaissance and advertising). At that time and location operations in the winter were futile and the format of ‘hibernating’ was evolved. Bill SEMEYN who had earlier experiences in ACAPULCO thought that MEXICO was cheap and a better haven than even his native British Columbia to take his new bride to await the more hospitable weather and the return of the EXPOS to Jarry Park.
Bill had a friend that worked in the camera business where he worked prior to founding SKYCOM. This friend had gone to work for XEROX which was at its zenith, having introduced the plain paper copier. Nothing was too good for ‘their boys’ and this friend had won a trip to PUERTO VALLARTA in 1965 or 1966 and was raving about the place.
Certainly this has to be on your itinerary he insisted and so it came to pass that aboard the lone Cessna C-170B of Aerial SIGN Co. our duo touched down at the Puerto Vallarta airport in January of 1968 over 48 years ago. Imagine. The irony was that armed with Arthur FROMMS book “Mexico on $5 a day”, as it was called in those days, the couple didn’t like their first night in a beachfront hotel called the PARAISO (now CARLOS O’BRIAN’s Clothesline). It was a modest $3.00 USD however the bathroom down the hall with only a curtain for privacy was disturbing to Bill, whose wife’s shapely figure would have caused car accidents (had there been more than the 45 present around that time). Finding another place was the first order of the second day in town. They had the best it seemed and finally in desperation after having searched out most of Arthur’s cheapies, they headed back to the airport seeking to fly south to Zihuatanejo, 500 miles to the southeast. Here they met some difficulty that would prove crucial to what you see today.
Bill argued with the airport flight plan dispatcher but to no avail. It was past three o’clock and not enough daylight was available to make Zihuatanejo before nightfall and so sorry, no flight plan, “come back tomorrow señor”. Now really upset, they jumped back on their fold up mini-HONDA and rode back into town and to the beach, the hell with where they would stay that night, they would worry about it later. Well then the tide changed. At the beach were the 40 odd tourists that were in town and amongst them were some special party types from Chicago but of Russian descent. Everything you’ve heard about Cossacks is true only tequila stimulates more than vodka I venture.
Well they got in with this crowd who were awed that they were the ones that had ‘buzzed the beach’ the previous day. Where are you staying they asked? Bill and Annette explained their plight and of course trotted off with them to the POSADA del PEDREGAL, which is opposite the market and is still there but now operated as apartments I believe. It was $5.00 a night but clean and their own private biffy. Hey – this was living. That lesson on having a comfortable place to stay at an affordable price has never left them. They stayed one month and three days before continuing on through MEXICO to COZUMEL and then over the water (yes in a C-170B) to CUBA in March of 1968 when all the hijacking was going on. Being Canadian was not a problem however flying over the water was another matter. (Chapter in one-day book to follow)
Of course, the rest is easy to imagine. The following year the ‘Russian convention’ became an annual affair and the Pedregal was home for a couple of years before any thought of buying something came into focus. “We were hippies with an airplane.” We had $1100 Cdn. to last three to four months and aviation fuel has only been payable on a credit card in the last few years. Then it was ‘efectivo señor’. Fate again played it’s card. Just before leaving MONTREAL at the end of one season with the GREY CUP game behind us and on the way to a motel in St. Hubert after a very late party at Terry and Gladys HARPER’s (remember the famous Hockey defense team of Harper and Laperriere) the family automobile ended up “totaled” in a ditch.
Ironically, that year we had mail forwarded to the same mailbox at the main post office that we had for 30 years until deliver began. You can tell the old timers by the low number of their post office box. I know someone who has No. 10. Same goes for telephone numbers, our local number 222-0018 was the 18th phone line in Puerto Vallarta! Anyway, the proceeds cheque for the car turned up in the box a few days before a friendly jog with the young and only bank manager in Puerto Vallarta. A casual remark while jogging past a piece of property that was going to be foreclosed on shortly as the owner was at the end of his rope, changed a whole lot of things. On the way back we stopped and looked at the land which the manager had a hankering for himself, but couldn’t afford it, (as if we could either). However the perception is that all gringos have money and yes the proceed cheque would suffice to hold the 250 meter piece of land with already some foundations and pillars erected on it until next year where they would be expected to pay it off. In other words, they were taking out the defunct debtor to the Bank in an amicable manner which saw him with some proceeds and relieved of the burden that was overwhelming given his deteriorating health. Presto, land barons in MEXICO.
In the ensuing years we slowly built what you see today.
Each year we added a floor if the flying business was good and when it wasn’t we did some landscaping and painting. The original lot was only 250m. but we bought the neighbour which added another 250m and with a lot of haggling with the new FIDICOMISO at the time we were coerced into buying the landlocked part above ending up with 800 m. total to Casa Anita which we slowly built upon ending up with a total of 21 suites. Yes all the units are condo suites without exception. As a pilot I became a plumber, and an electrician while Annette became a talented decorator. On our thin budget we assumed many of the trades to save and to accelerate the building with limited funds.
Meanwhile our neighbors not straddled with financial limitations produced CASA PANORAMICA and CORONA del MAR. on either side of us. I invited a client friend down one Christmas when we were working on the second floor (Anita 2) who was also enthralled with Puerto Vallarta and bought CASA PANORAMICA. The other property was neglected for many years as the surprise to the builder owner was that his wife didn’t like it. Years later we took an option to purchase it which fell through several times awaiting the sale of our Victoria home with was our umbilical cord to Canada. Nevertheless the kindly seller allowed us to renew our ‘options’ and consequently we bought CORONA del MAR with payments. It was only three units which over time we made it into nine units giving the 30 total suite and the long name of CASA ANITA /CORONA del MAR.
During this period we became wholesalers for Mexicana Airlines selling GIT’s (Ground included tours) and enjoyed healthy commissions (in those days) When Mexicana dropped out of the picture we aligned ourselves with DELTA who had picked up the old Hughes Airwest routes to Mexico. This relationship was great and we became a minor player in the Western Travel Market under the name of MEX-DEV Development Corp. We produced and distributed to Travel Agencies across Canada but mainly in the West 50000 brochures a year. For ten years we maintained a 9-5 office with an employee who made the reservations with DELTA and booked the suites. Finally DELTA quit the market and ALASKA took over. Thinking we could make a similar deal with them I approached them only to be rejected as 600 tickets a year did not constitute being a wholesaler. (A year later they and all of the airlines were begging the government for bailouts….Karma). Thank-you ……now we’re hoteliers only. Luckily the revolution in telecommunications allowed us to close the office in Canada and consolidate everything here in Puerto Vallarta with VOIP telephone and FAX links. This also allowed to settle permanently. Thank-you Alaska Airlines!
The internet was the next big influence on our evolution and for a time we were on the leading edge. Alas our competition has caught up and many have surpassed us. While we were only ‘partnered’ with the credit card companies we now are saddled with new interlopers namely the ORBITZs and EXPEDIAS who take heavy commissions and use our money to make sure their No.1 on all the search engines. Hopefully one day the public will realize that dealing direct is going to be better in the long run.
So there you have it. Forty-eight years later we are still the owner operators of HOTEL CASA ANITA /CORONA del MAR, with daughter SONIA, now General Manager and running things. Soon we plan to become a mixed bag of Hotel and Condominiums for sale with options to, RENT to OWN, join the rental pool, or simply share our place in Paradise.
Please feel free to contact any of us for information and assistance about our accommodations and beautiful Puerto Vallarta at