Before sailing, catamarans, charters, itinerary discussion and crew menus were part of our daily dialogue….there was a store. Mata Grande Grocery was our labor of love for many years and she turns 10 this month. (Her DOB is approximately March 15th, 2008) At the time, Jason and I had no idea how building a small general store in our front yard would forever change our lives and the lives of the people in the neighborhood. We just wanted to have cold beer, eggs, ice and other basic necessities without them spoiling, breaking or melting before we got them home.
That idea spawned our very humble beginnings with opening a grocery store on north Ambergris Caye, Belize. Originally measuring 16×20, located almost in the middle of nowhere and with incredibly limited resources-our labor of love took shape. Because the store was small-we opted for bright colors to make her stand out. Our neighbors quickly embraced the store and it became a local hang-out for everyone ranging from caretakers to island celebrities. A online grocery order and delivery website followed as well as store extensions, hammocks, picnic tables, a Belizean snack shack and a property management business. The store was even once the subject for a professional artist who decided to paint her.
In late 2010, our neighbor, Rachael Eteson came by for regular “happy hour on the store steps” to say she had met a guy (Cliff Wilson, now her husband) who owned and operated a small sailing charter company. As their relationship developed, so did the sailing company. Eventually Belize Sailing Vacations needed captains and cooks which is where Jason learned to sail and started his work on charters. After Rory completed her Pacific crossing-she became intrigued by Belize and opted to leave Seattle to live at Mata Grande and also started working for Belize Sailing Vacations as a chef, captain and ASA Sailing Instructor. Eventually, when we sold our business and property, I too went to work for “BSV” as their reservation director.
While it has been nearly 5 years since we left, we want to take a moment to give a shout-out to the little store that started it all. We could not have made it without the never-ending support of our neighbors (you all know who you are). Even though a lot has changed since 2008-the current owners (Justin and Tami) have continued to care and love her. If you are planning a trip to Belize-please stop by to visit Mata Grande Grocery. We hope you enjoy the photos of her early days to more recent!
PS-Do not be afraid of the road…it is now paved!