June 16th, 2014.
CASA SUCRE – A Coffee Shop in Casco Viejo, Panama City, serving the best Panamanian Coffee and Pastries.
1).”Casa Sucre” is rated #3 of 478 Restaurants on Trip Advisor for Panama City – that is an excellent score, especially as it includes the Old City, Casco Viejo, where there is no shortage of Coffee Shops and Restaurants. Actually, it is more than a Coffee Shop as the building includes the Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel that adjoins the Coffee Shop.
2).Strolling leisurely down Avenue B, at the corner of Calle 8 in the Old City, I came across this beautifully restored Spanish Colonial two storey building with a large cream and brown sign that read “Casa Sucre”. Through the door I could see a coffee shop and as I entered there was a “delicious” aroma of freshly made coffee and I ordered a cappuccino. It was delivered to my table with a design on top of the frothy steamed milk, accompanied by a tasty little cookie. The coffee was exceptionally good and I later found out Casa Sucre sources premium Panamanian Coffee from the green mountain Highlands in the Chiriqui Province near Boquete – a coffee growing area, 3,900 feet above sea level with a suitable climate and soil conditions that makes it an ideal place to farm coffee. Both owners, Alyce and Rich Sherman were present in the shop and as we got chatting, I was able to find out the story of how they became the owners of Casa Sucre.
3). In 2005, Alyce and Rich who were living in the United States, had begun to think of retiring from their professions. Alyce originally from the San Francisco Bay Area was a Doctor of Education and Rich, originally from the Los Angeles Area, was a Doctor of Human Development. Searching for their retirement home they visited Panama and traveled extensively, covering much of the country including the usual Ex-Pat retirement spots. By the time they arrived in Panama City, they were five weeks into their journey and had not yet found a place to retire. Strolling through Casco Viejo they saw a delapidated two story “ruin” and Alyce was instantly captivated. The “House”, dating from 1873 had good bones and was named “Casa Sucre”. First and foremost, there was a serious problem – it was occupied by seven squatter families. Restoration could not begin until the squatters were removed and rehoused and this takes time. Removing squatters is a legal process – a lawyer was engaged and it was another year before the Shermans could get Title and Occupation of “their House”.
4).With the help of an Architect, work was begun and they had to learn as they went along what it takes to restore a house dated 1873 that had fallen onto hard times. In addition to capital and permits, it took considerable endurance and determination and many ups and downs to do the restoration which was enough to drive them crazy and they must have wondered if “retiring” to Panama was such a good idea !! It was a huge challenge, but they succeeded and today, there are six rooms in the boutique hotel upstairs and three apartments downstairs, all beautifully furnished, plus the coffee shop that serves superb coffee, delicious breakfasts and light lunches.
5). One of the Sherman’s most joyous experiences on the way to opening Casa Sucre was the Eightieth Birthday celebration of the Great, Great, Grandson of the original owners of the Sucre Family’ Home. Alyce hosted the Sucre Family Birthday celebration in honor of the original family who owned the historic home and the Opening of Casa Sucre as a Boutique Hotel.
6). This was not what Alyce and Rich had in mind when they left the United States looking for a place to retire in Panama. The two Doctors can now add “Hotelier and Restauranteur” to their Bio’s. It has been a life changing experience full of challenge and they succeeded. In the few years since they opened, by maintaining high standards, Casa Sucre has gone from strength to strength as the name of their hotel and coffee shop has risen ever higher in international publications, travel guide books , the Internet and word of mouth.
7). Nothing succeeds like success and Casa Sucre’s success is well deserved.