Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 33
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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Matt Landau Finds Success Far Away from Nassau Street

Ellen Gilbert

“Matt Landau appears very much at home in Panama,” began a recent article in U.S. News & World Report about expatriates working abroad. “One might even be tempted to call him an old hand,” continued the piece, “were he not, at age 25, so confoundingly young.”

The Princeton High School (PHS) graduate and son of Landau store (“the world’s most beautiful woolens”) co-owner Robert Landau, Mr. Landau drew U.S. News’s attention (and apparent admiration) with his current multifarious career as a writer (he is the author of 99 Things to Do in Costa Rica), real estate marketing consultant, editor of The Panama Report (an online news and opinion monthly), and part owner of Los Cuatro Tulipanes, a boutique hotel in Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo.

“Panama is incredibly diverse,” he observed in a recent interview. “There are people from all over the world. It’s a really good time to be in Panama. It’s a young country, a fun country.” Mr. Landau believes that because that so many of Panama’s activities had been canal-related, “opportunities in other sectors, from real estate to finance to a host of basic services,” had “gone largely untapped,” affording opportunities to be the first to get to a market.

Mr. Landau credits the ease with which he has settled in Panama (he has lived there for a year-and-a-half) in part, to his experiences at PHS. He travelled to Europe “for the first time on my own” with the school’s choir, learning to “be comfortable in places that aren’t the same as home.” Playing soccer with Mexican and Guatemalan teammates facilitated his ease with Spanish language and culture.

A 2005 University of Richmond graduate, Mr. Landau said that he didn’t think he had “gotten it” at first when he finished college, only to discover that he had indeed “gained the tools to succeed” at school. “It’s hard to put a finger on,” he said, but he believes his success has to do with “learning to think differently from everyone else,” and “learning to find solutions.”

Asked about the influence of the Landau store, a third-generation, family-run shop in its 93rd year in business, Mr. Landau credits his father, rather than the business itself, for his ability to think outside of the box. Although he is very much an online player and his father still “does print,” the younger Landau says that he definitely got his marketing sense from Mr. Landau Sr., who “thinks differently than other marketers.”

The U.S. News article notes that the estimated three million citizens who become expatriates every year do not do so for political reasons, and Mr. Landau is similarly inclined. He visits home “every couple of months,” and looks forward to voting in the upcoming presidential election with an absentee ballot. In the meantime, he’s starting a new project in Panama, offering “super-high-end dinners in exotic places.”

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