SAN ANTONIO -

Dolores Pagan has worked in retail before. Now, she really means business.

The budding entrepreneur now owns her own business, Severo & Dolores Makeup & More, thanks to PicaPica Plaza, a unique retail development on the south side.

"I wanted to make my own money," she said. "I have my two kids, and I decided I'm going to do this for us."

Pagan is among the vendors who lease space at PicaPica Plaza, 910 S.E. Military Drive. The retail center celebrates its grand opening Saturday, although it has been open for business for about a month.

The 135,000-square-foot building, now painted in vibrant oranges, pinks and teals, looks nothing like the faded old vacant Walmart it was.

"Our first goal was, as you see, to take this big box and turn it into something not referred to as an old big box, said Al Honigblum, developer behind the PicaPica project.

He sees the project, three years in the making, as a community gathering spot where families can shop, grab a bite to eat, get a haircut or even have a birthday party. The Kiddie Park inside features a train and carousel.

As the PicaPica name implies, the plaza is a spicy mix with businesses selling everything from gifts and clothing to audio and video components for cars.  

Eateries offer a variety of foods and snacks, and other tenants offer real estate, accounting, legal or manicure services.

For the vendors, the plaza means opportunity.

"A lot of them in here are first-time business owners that had a creative idea, but never had the format to start," Honigblum said.

"This is an upgrade for us," said Ray Flores, who owns a licensed sports gear shop with his wife. 

Instead of selling at a flea market, they operate in a bustling market with air conditioning. He hopes this is the beginning for something good.

"The dream is to have our own stand-alone store one day, with the big boys," he said.