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Macanudo Mate

husband and wife’s Individual passions fuel two new businesses under one roof in North Naples. She designs shoes; he creates a menu of Argentinian food and beverages. Their married creations are sold in the same storefront in Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza on the northwest corner of Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge roads. 

On June 13, Christine and Michael Picerno opened Chinelas, “shoes for adventurous soles,” and Macanudo Mate, “tea for friendly souls,” at 5417 Airport-Pulling Road. 

“It’s two separate businesses. We decided we didn’t want two separate rents,” Christine Picerno said. “I still don’t see him. He’s in the kitchen all day and I’m out here. But at least it’s not two rents, two separate bills, two of everything. It’s really quite nice and it works for us. That’s how this whole crazy thing came to be.” 

The Picernos recently relocated to Naples from Chicago, where their unique business model began as a hobby. “It actually all started with the shoes,” Christine Picerno said. After starting with a mobile operation at fairs and markets, they graduated to a popup store with the shoes at a downtown Chicago mall and eventually added the cafe.  

“We were doing really, really well. Then, COVID hit,” she said. “COVID killed everything.” That’s when they made the decision to relocate. “My mom lives in Naples and I said ‘Let’s just move to Florida,’” so it was almost a two-year process. It was before the market went wonkers. We bought a home and it took us one whole year to start moving everything.”

They had difficulty finding a second-generation restaurant space in the Naples area, but they eventually were able to acquire the former space of Gustitos Peruvian Bakery & Café, which permanently closed last fall after operating for nearly a decade. A South American connection continues at that location. 

Christine’s entire family is from Argentina and nearly all of the recipes they serve are from her family. Chinelas are based on Argentinian house slippers but Picerno designed the comfortable footwear to be worn anywhere. Although she designs the shoes, they are made by small family outfits in Argentina, Spain and Bangladesh. 

Macanudo Mate, the food side, is a salute to her late father. “Macanudo in Argentina is such an overwhelming word. It means fantastic but it doesn’t just mean fantastic. When you say Macanudo it’s streamers, it’s balloons,” she said. “We would come home from school with good grades and he’d be like ‘Macanudo!’ So, I decided to call it Macanudo Mate.” Mate is from yerba mate, a caffeinated tea with relaxing effects that the store sells.  

special utensil called a bombilla is used to drink yerba mate. It functions as a filtered straw, a tube with a strainer on one end to prevent the consumer from ingesting the stems and leaves that are steeped in the bottom of the cup. “You can have this cup all day long. You just continue to add hot water,” she said. 

They serve the warm yerba mate in two different ways, including an Americanized version. “We have the gaucho and the Americano. The Americano, you French press it and there are no leaves but it has the same effect,” she said. The gaucho is the traditional experience with the bombilla. “The flavor is very similar to green tea. It’s sweet on its own. It is earthy.” 

They also serve it as an iced tea. “We flavor it with all types of dried fruits, so we have a sangria flavorno boozeand then with lemon grass,” she said. “It is one of the most popular drinks we have.” 

Yerba mate has antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties and has proven useful in managing weight. “It is so healthy. The health benefits are really wonderful for this tea,” she said. “This has just about as much caffeine as coffee but it’s a completely different effect on your body. Coffee affects your nervous system. Yerba mate works with your muscles so you’re extremely relaxed but you are really aware.”

The food menu includes eight savory and three sweet varieties of empanadas, three kinds of tamales, seasonal soups and chili and two traditional sandwiches: choripan and sandwich de miga. Common desserts—flan and alfajores cookiesalso are available. “We’re going to add a few other things as we go,” Michael Picerno said. 

The Chinelas part of the store features racks along one wall with the women’s and men’s shoes she designs. “It took me a long time to get here, what is the perfect shoe,” she said. “The inside, both men’s and women’s, is lined with suede. I take shoes from around the world and I design them the way I would want.” For instance, she has shoes influenced by Morrocco and moccasins. 

Memory foam insoles give them a slipper-like quality and she makes them with a seamless pull tab in the back she patented to prevent blisters and to help put on the shoes. “It was a three-year process. When I got it right, I patented it. So, I’m the only one who has this design.” 

They also have some retail items for sale in the front of the store. “We have been selling bags of mate like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. 

The Picernos individual passions clearly drive their unique business model. They both are passionate about what they do. “You know what’s so gratifying? When somebody loves what we made them,” she said. “Nothing more gratifying.” 

Just cue the music. “We play tango all day long,” she said. “It’s just charming. It’s a nice place to come and visit.” 

Chinelas and Macanudo Mate are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but hours will be extended once season starts. The business is closed Sundays. 

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