The shop has operated from the same location for the entire time. SUR
Popular family-run Marbella plumbing supply and bathroom business celebrates 50th anniversary

Popular family-run Marbella plumbing supply and bathroom business celebrates 50th anniversary

M. Alabarce has lived through everything from the construction boom to droughts, glamour, tourism and the changing tastes of Costa del Sol society

María Albarral


Tuesday, 9 April 2024, 19:31


From its corner in the centre of Marbella, the bathroom decoration and plumbing shop M. Alabarce has seen the history of the town pass by its door. Five decades of stories and hard work have made this establishment remain open; a challenge in an era in which the large supermarkets force the closure of many local shops.

Fortunately, this has not been the case for the Alabarce family who continue to be at the forefront of the sector. "The key to staying in the same place for 50 years is the close relationship with the customer, something that has become lost,” says the manager of the family business, Adela Alabarce, who has fought for local commerce tooth and nail.

This matriarch is the captain of "a great team" which, in her own words, "is the key to success". "People think that in the large supermarkets they will find better prices and greater variety and often don't give the small business a chance, which, in most cases, is cheaper and if not, the difference is minimal. These chains don't offer the interest and follow-up of the 'traditional' shops or the guarantee of having a door to knock on if something goes wrong," she says.

This family business has evolved over the years, as has Marbella. Manuel, Adela's father, started a new commercial adventure in 1974, leaving behind his role as a professional fitter to start his own business, which was unusual and brave in those days. It was a great challenge for the businessman who was entering a market that had not yet been explored.


"He was a pioneer in putting in new things, bathtubs, hydromassage, gold fittings... which was very popular in those days when Marbella was beginning to stand out in terms of luxury, especially with Arabs who came in the summer,” recalls Adela, who had to take over the family business in her early twenties when her father died very young.

At the beginning of the 90s, the world of construction was dominated by men, Adela Alabarce, who is from Malaga, says that she "never felt discriminated against" and made a name for herself in the sector.

"Over the 50 years everything has happened and we have lived through everything. We lived through the construction boom in the 90s. It was non-stop and we have had to adapt to the times and to all kinds of public as the sector became very important", says the businesswoman.

The little apple

Alabarce assures SUR, while recalling the beginnings of the shop and her arrival in the town, "Marbella for me is still the town where I came when I was very small,” she points out and says she describes the town as “the little apple”, New York on a smaller scale where cultures and nationalities from all corners of the world coexist.

From its windows this shop experienced the rise of the glitz and glamour of Marbella. "Many celebrities and people with high purchasing power have bought in our shop, not them in person, but all those agents who decorated their villas and who were in charge of making the purchases," Adela explains, while recalling how they have lived through cyclical periods. "Now we talk about drought, but in the 90s we went through a horrible one where we had to set up water deposits and tanks because there wasn't a drop to be had", she says.

M. Alabarce remains a family business that has made a place for itself in the town and has adapted as Marbella has changed, forming part of the business and commercial fabric and aspiring to continue contemplating ‘the little apple' from its windows.

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