Diane Powers, an accomplished, recognized entrepreneur and design professional, presides over a quartet of Mexican-inspired Shops and Mexican restaurants that enrich San Diego’s history and enhance San Diego’s landscape in Old Town, La Mesa, Carlsbad and Del Mar Highlands.
In Old Town, restaurant Casa Guadalajara and the adjacent Bazaar del Mundo Shops form a vibrant entrance to the community on the corner of Taylor and Juan Streets. La Mesa is home to Powers’ Casa de Pico restaurant, framing Grossmont Center with the unmistakable silhouette of a Mexican hacienda. Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad, like all Powers’ projects, is replete with gardens, fountains and Mexican and South American hand-picked folk art, drawing locals and visitors to The Forum from every direction. Powers’ newest dining venture, Casa Sol y Mar in Del Mar Highlands, opened in spring 2013 and is artfully painted in a fiesta of gold, crimson and orange jewel tones, showcasing the warmth and romance of Mexico. Powers’ restaurants are famous for their award-winning Mexican food, lush outdoor patios, strolling mariachis and giant frosty margaritas.
The county-wide locations of the Shops and restaurants have been the result of Ms. Powers’ determination to relocate her enterprise, when, in 2005 and after 35 years, she lost the lease for the Bazaar del Mundo enterprise in Old Town State Historic Park. Without skipping a beat, Powers’ forged forward, reopening her businesses and her loyal fan base followed. Today, thousands of Bazaar del Mundo devotees have ample opportunity to patronize their favorite Bazaar del Mundo Shops and restaurants.
Long-known and respected for her unique perspective and signature style, Ms. Powers credits her passion for Latin American color and culture to extensive travels throughout Mexico and many other South and Central American countries, during which she’s gained insight and understanding for her life’s work.
A San Diego native, Ms. Powers graduated college with honors, earning a B.A. in Design from San Diego State University. In 1968, she purchased renowned Ilse Ruocco’s design firm and embarked on plans for a Mexican attraction that would combine the essence of Mexican cuisine, music, arts and crafts, landscape and architecture. The result, in 1971, was Bazaar del Mundo, the vibrant complex of Shops and restaurants in Old Town State Historic Park. In its 35-year tenure, Bazaar del Mundo evolved into the most popular and successful attraction in the California State Parks system and one of San Diego’s top three visitor destinations.
Ms. Powers’ creative and artistic approach is apparent in all aspects of her business. She is personally involved in most facets of the business, from the overall internal design and thoughtful setup to the formation of creative advertising concepts and menu design and development. To maintain the authentic festive environment and superior quality of each restaurant, Ms. Powers dedicates herself to weekly menu tastings and management meetings. Her painstaking attention to detail is evident in everything she does from selecting the décor that evokes her trademark style to understanding her customers – making time to read each customer comment card from her four restaurants. Her outstanding passion for quality has propelled Ms. Powers’ Bazaar del Mundo to the esteemed position as one of the largest 100 percent woman-owned businesses in San Diego and one of the top 500 woman-owned businesses in the nation.
In 1983, Ms. Powers conceived of and produced a “Cinco de Mayo” festival within the Bazaar del Mundo and the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in recognition of the honored and spirited celebration in Mexican history. The event drew thousands of visitors to the community and deeply benefited both the State Park and the numerous Old Town merchants.
After 17 years of increasingly successful productions and high visitation (enjoying national publicity) she donated the event to the Old Town community, where it continues today as one of the Southwest’s – indeed the nation’s – most spectacular celebrations.
In 2001, in recognition of the Bazaar’s success in attracting more than six million visitors annually to Old Town, Powers’ was inducted into the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (ConVis) Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was established in 1999 to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the community and its hospitality industry.
In 2002, Powers received the Finest Service Award from ConVis for individual visitor services. The Bazaar’s annual Latin American Festival was named one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” by the American Bus Association in 2001. In 2000, Powers received a Living Legacy Award from the non-profit Women’s International Center and was named one of the year’s “Working Woman 500” by the national Working Woman magazine. Other awards for Powers include the 1997 Woman Business Owner of the Year by the San Diego Chapter of the National Association of Woman Business Owners, the 1996 Best Multicultural Tourism Program from the California Department of Tourism, the 1994 Entrepreneur of the Year for her contributions to tourism by the California Tourism Industry, the 1994 Total Excellence in Management awarded by the San Diego Business Journal, and most recently she was named a “Woman Who Means Business,” by the San Diego Business Journal in 2009.
Ms. Powers and her husband, commercial real estate broker Brent Gilman, share a love of horses and horsemanship. In their two homes, they display numerous ribbons and awards for riding and showing their beloved Arabians.
Powers currently serves on several civic boards including the Old Town Chamber of Commerce Business Improvement District and the San Diego Restaurant Association. She also acts as a Design/Marketing consultant to the Mingei International Museum.
For more information call 619-296-3161