The fact that we live in an ever-increasingly flat world is especially—and painfully—clear when it comes to shopping for unique finds while traveling. Whether it’s H&M in Sicily, Prada in Guam or Louis Vuitton on Aruba, the list of the usual retail suspects popping up in the most far-flung places is constantly growing. And finding those unique destination-specific boutiques is increasingly difficult, which makes the discovery of a place like San Miguel de Allende’s Sollano 16 even more meaningful. The brainchild of Californian entrepreneur Anne Harte, the lifestyle boutique is located in a beautifully restored 18th-century colonial building, which serves as a soulful backdrop to Harte’s inspired collection. The boutique features a well-edited assembly of stylish finds from around the world—including fashion, accessories, jewelry and wares for the home. Indagare spoke with Harte about her store and restaurant, as well as other favorites finds in San Miguel and beyond.
Can you share the story of the beginning of Sollano 16?
I had been in the art business in Mexico City and would go to San Miguel de Allende whenever possible. This gorgeous building on Sollano 16 suddenly became available for sale. I bought it on a whim, as the space was irresistible: two large courtyards with Moorish arches framed by jacaranda trees. I initially had no idea what to do with it and then slowly, over a period of five years, it evolved into a high-end home-lifestyle store.
That was easy for me. I picked what I liked from Europe, the U.S., Mexico and South America. The real fun in this endeavor is the people I have met who make or represent the products. The vendors are almost all delighted to be represented in a colonial building in Colonial Mexico. They think it is exotic—and it is!
Related: Q&A with Jeweler Gogo Ferguson
Can you highlight a favorite artisan?
The one product I am probably most proud to be selling is Raoul Textiles. This California company, founded by Sally McQuillen, hand prints beautiful imagery on Belgian linen. She has been kind enough to give me sole representation in Mexico.
What are some of the crafts that are indigenous to San Miguel de Allende?
This region is known for its different crafts. Dolores Hidalgo is known for ceramics, Guanajuato for silver and Leon for leatherwork. San Miguel de Allende manufactures metal work but has become more of a home to the arts.
What are the must-sees for a first-time traveler to the region?
A walking tour of the city is a great way to see the parks, churches, sights and sounds. San Miguel is very much about the senses. The colors are intense. The sounds are amazing, from church bells to fireworks in the middle of the night celebrating a saint. There is always some festival, as it is a truly cultural center. People from all over the world come to create, whether it’s music, visual arts or writing. The Charco del Ingenio is a must-see for birders and botanists: it’s the central Jardín, where all the energy meets and emanates.
For a big night out, start with a drink and witness the fantastic sunset view on Azotea’s roof. Then, off to one of many good restaurants: La Burger for the best hamburgers ever on the road to Dolores, Ole Ole for fajitas in a bullfighting atmosphere, La Manantial for fish tacos in an old cantina. After dinner, there is different music all over town: Mama Mia, The Limmerick, Tio Lucas. You can find everything from jazz and classical guitar to DJ-style.
San Miguel is renowned as a foodie destination. What does The Restaurant at Sollano 16 add to the culinary scene?
I think our restaurant is the best in town. Chef Donnie Masterton [a James Beard Award winner] was one of the first in town to be interested in using local, fresh and organic food. He even opened a small grocery store next to the dining space that sells prepared and gourmet items. His culinary philosophy is that of a changing seasonal menu featuring global comfort food.
Related: The Restaurant
What do you love the most about San Miguel?
I love the people. There’s always something going on, whether it’s a spontaneous parade or festival. And I love the summertime, as it is the rainy season, with huge storms that blow through to blue skies and great temperatures.
What would be your recommendations for travelers wanting to explore beyond San Miguel?
Guanajuato, Dolores, and Atotonilco are all good day trips. Bici Burro (bici-burro.com) can provide hiking and mountain bike excursions; Rancho Xotolar (xotolarranch.com), arranges spectacular horseback riding trips with true Mexican lunches afterwards. And the best guide in town is Daniel Hernandez (hernandez-tours.com). He will take you almost anywhere in the country.
What are some of your other favorite Mexican destinations and why?
Mexico is amazingly diverse. A country with 32 states that contain tropical rain forests, amazing beaches (both populated and not), remote Indian villages and spectacular pre-Hispanic ruins. I have so many favorite places that run the gamut from the resort at Cuixmala to the city of Oaxaca.
My most favorite store was probably Takashimaya in New York. Many of us are sad that it is gone. There are great stores worldwide, though the best are the ones that edit carefully and have a clear vision.
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