Growing up in Joao Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil, businessman Roberto Santiago attended Pio X-Marist College. After that he went to the University Center of Joao Pessoa where his focus was on business administration. Santiago also went to Madrid where he studied computer science at the University of Complutense. He was then ready for the world of work. One of his first jobs was at Café Santa Rosa where he showed a natural talent for customers service. Roberto Santiago then ventured into entrepreneurship. He opened and ran a prosperous factory making cardboard boxes. Santiago also earned a measure of fame as a writer and kart and motocross driver.
But it was when Roberto Santiago developed an interest in building his own shopping mall, that he really found his niche as a businessman. Santiago’s road towards becoming Brazil’s mall tycoon began in 1987. He devised a plan to build a mall that had everything people want, bought some land in Joao Pessoa and began making his dream mall a reality. When it opened in 1989, Roberto Santiago’s Manaira Shopping Mall had 93,000 square feet of shopping and entertainment space, over 200 stores, a school, a bank, a gym, 11 movie theatres and a vast area called the Game Station that featured 200 electronic games for children and adults.
The food court at Manaira Shopping Mall was also very expansive. It features fast food places and fine dining restaurants offering Brazil’s most popular dishes, classic international meals, as well as gourmet specials. Then in 2009, Roberto Santiago built an events facility on the roof of the mall. It’s called Domus Hall, and it’s one of the mall’s most popular places. Over 10,000 people can fit in the sound-proof, air-conditioned facility and its top-of-the-line sound system constantly pumps out the music the crowds want to hear. Domus Hall has hosted incredible live shows, art exhibitions, conferences, festivals, fairs and even weddings and graduations.
The economic impact Santiago’s Manaira Shopping Mall has had on Joao Pessoa has been tremendous. It has created thousands of jobs, attracted a growing number of businesses, helped local businesses to prosper and even helped increase people’s property value. The Manaira Shopping Mall is among Brazil’s most popular entertainment and shopping destinations. The thousands of spaces in its parking lot are almost always full and there are always thousands of people strolling through the mall looking for places to have fun and spend their money.
People in Joao Pessoa hail Roberto Santiago as a local hero. But he isn’t resting on his laurels. In 2014, he opened Mangeira Shopping Center on the southern end of Joao Pessao. And Roberto Santiago has plans to open malls in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.