Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com

The Mercado Mediterranean Shopping Village

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com
Photo Credit: Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com

The Mercado Shopping Village opened March 1986, Orlando’s first festival marketplace, which emphasized specialty shops, restaurants, and entertainment. With over 50 stores, they ranged from Old Tyme Photos, where you got your photo taken while wearing old time rags to Santa C., a shop which specialized primarily in Christmas year round.

The shopping center also featured events, for example in 1987 they had the Big Scoop Ice Cream Competition and Tasting Fair; open to all ice creams where they competed for best best vanilla ice cream, best chocolate ice cream, best ice cream dish, best ice cream drink and best far-out flavor. The shops also brought with them 15-20 gallons of ice cream to sell and the proceeds went to charity.

By 1988 though, business was waning. Merchants said it was mainly because the marketplace relied solely on tourists. In 1990, Martin Marietta Corp, owner, sold the Mercado for $42.5 million, a sale that was part of a liquidation of the company’s holding in the business park. It was managed by Ewing Southeast Realty Inc. until it was purchased in 1991 by Christian Wolfer, who at the time owned four different companies. In 2002, the owners filed for bankruptcy, blaming the post-Sept.11 tourist slump for the slow business. LaSelle Bank acquired the property and auctioned it off for $18.3 million.

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com
Photo Credit: Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com

The property was purchased by Unicorp National Developments in 2005. by that time, business was terrible. Less than a dozen shops remained; empty storefronts with broken windows were plenty and walking into a filthy bathroom was common. Unicorp hired a security firm to help combat the vandalism and crime in the plaza.

In 2006, Unicorp donated the plaza to Raw Productions, which put on a haunted house event for several weeks leading up to Halloween. Called Nights of Terror, they converted three empty storefronts and the still-operating Titanic: Ship of Dreams attraction into four haunted houses. Opening week though, they didn’t bring in the crowd they expected it to and began offering unlimited foods and lower ticket prices. Tenants complained the company brought in its own food and drinks, discouraging those who did attend to patronize their restaurants.

Unicorp announced in 2007, the Mercado would be demolished to make way for The Square, a mixture of upscale restaurants and eateries with a 424-room, 16-story hotel, dubbed Amalfi to be built first. The plan never materialized and in 2011, it was announced that a $100 million entertainment-dining-shopping district theme park called I-Drive Live would be built, including a 425 foot observation dubbed the Orlando eye, a Madame Tussauds wax museum, and a Sea Life Aquarium. As of 2013, the property is still an empty lot.

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com
Photo Credit: Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com – Blazing Pianos, a piano bar where pianists played rock-n-roll classics.

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2007
Website: FLURBEX

17 thoughts on “The Mercado Mediterranean Shopping Village”

  1. This sucks. My dad worked there in the late 80’s I believe. It’s been about 23 years since I last saw that building and I wanted to go back and visit the place. I have old VHS tapes (actually my parents do) of Mercado. I was 5 or 6 when I last saw this place but I remember it perfectly.

    My dad was the one who lowered the countdown lighting “ball” during the countdown on NYE in 1988 or 89.

  2. I used to shop here for my wife when staying at The Castle Hotel. It was a charming little place. Reminded me of Italy which it was supposed to.

  3. I used to go there during the mid 90’s, but it never really lived up to it’s potential. It was a nice shopping village…the steakhouse (Damon’s??) was great, and fun for trivia, and Cricketers Arms was always a lively spot. I feel it’s downfall started when that giant eyesore for the Titanic experience was added to the front. It’s a shame, I was sad when they recently demolished the buildings, it could of been rehabbed and pulled into the IDrive Alive project that’s taking it’s place very easily.

  4. i went to go look for this Mercado because i loved shopping there and it was gone no more Mercado its not there on international dr in Orlando Florida ,is gone it disappeared ,bye bye Mercado

  5. The wife and I used to visit this place every year we came to Florida, great shops and places to eat. Now that we retired to Florida I thought we would revisit only to find it’s all gone. Also used to eat at a place called Darells and stayed at the Best Western.
    Guess nothing ever stays the same.

  6. I remember the food court with dishes from around the world. It was there where in Christmas 1989 I had my very first Greek Salad. Also, I remember the humungous birdcage with the animatronic birds that sang at certain times of the day. It was a great place but probably poorly marketed.

  7. I was there in April of 89 and had the best ribs I had ever eaten at Damon’s the Place for ribs. Best ribs I had ever eaten and that remains to this day. Sad,.

  8. We don’t getWe don’t get to Orlando often but when we did we loved to go to Mercados and get those delicious subs they made in the main area. Hate to hear it’s all gone.

  9. Been a local for 25 years, and used to always stop in and visit my friend Gino who owned both “The Tropical Cafe” and what was once “The Bar”. A cozy place, sort of off the beaten track a little. I was very dismayed when it closed down in ’07. Seems like construction is going full steam there now, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Either way, it won’t be the same experience – as bigger aint’ always better!

Don't be a stranger, share your thoughts with us!