Chile has a funny way of grouping all the like stores into one neighborhood, or one street. Such that if you ask five different people “where can I get a new gasket for my pressure cooker?” or “where can I get a new jug for my blender?” without blinking, people will say, “Tenderini.” And in fact, there are many kitchen repair-type-shops on Tenderini, a small, gated street downtown, between the Alameda and Moneda. I even found someone to fix my old coffee grinder, installing a totally McGyvered switch on the outside of the housing, which looks completely rasca (trashy) and I don’t care, because now I have coffee again, and I didn’t have to go to the mall or buy something new.
And the list of stuff-specific streets goes on:
Bikes? San Diego
Lamps? Merced or Rosas
Embroidered shirts? Rosas or Patronato
Garages for car-fixing or buying specific parts for specific cars? 10 de Julio
Made-to-order furniture or foam and fiberfill for furniture-making? Matta
Weaponry (guns, artillery, bullets and such)? Paseo Bulnes
It seemed like such a strange system to me when I first arrived here, as I was accustomed to one store per neighborhood or sector that could deal with those items. Wouldn’t it make sense, for example, to have a store that sells night tables right next to one that has lamps? Or furniture-making supplies near the fabric and upholstery? Chilean capitalism, I called it.
And if we didn’t have Chilean capitalism, then we wouldn’t get places like this, the Galpón de los Autos, a galpón (hangar/shed/storehouse, basically a flea-market type space with many locales inside) where they sell small items for cars, and (as it turns out), stovetops for car camping, which is what my friend and I were looking for. In truth, this is probably not the name of the galpón, but it’s what everyone calls it, and since in Spanish we normally say “what is it called?” for “what is its name?” The answer is, “se llama el galpón de los autos” (it is called…)
And while they sell camping stoves, which are sort of tangentially related to cars, in that you wouldn’t want to carry one in for hike-in camping (never mind the gas canister that goes with it), I could not for the life of me figure out how these items were related to motor vehicles, though they sure look pretty sitting there in that box.
I also purchased one of those two-flat-prongs-to-two-round-prongs adapters for my electrical items, since you can never have too many of these, what with the flat American plugs and the round Chilean outlets (careful to make sure the appliance can take 220 first, or risk the dreaded white smoke and untimely death of your appliance). I also spied but did not purchase this (pardon bad picture) which both makes me wonder, what is a low-class ding dong bell, and also, do people put doorbells on their cars or campers? No one likes an unannounced visitor, and if you didn’t have one, people would just bang their key against the gate (really, I learned this here, it’s how you tell people you’re there if their bell doesn’t work. Shouting out “alo” also works).
The place itself was very quiet on a weekday, and my friend and I were definitely the only women perusing the shops. People were polite, and confused (what are all these gringas doing in my galpón?), and generally quite helpful, though you can tell (as is often the case) that most of the stands were supplied by the same distributor from the very same container, since most of the products were approximately the same in all the stands, which makes the fact that they are all grouped together even stranger.
And when you leave, they thank you for visiting.
Galpón del los autos (or whatever it’s called), Chacabuco, near Estación Central, about two blocks in from the Alameda. They also sell tools and bits and bobs. And for what it’s worth, I now love these little shopping streets or agglomeration of stores that are almost the same, so if you’ve got some more that I should know about, send ’em in.