Growing up in Belize City I was exposed to a melting pot of cultures. I had friends who were Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Garifuna, and visited some of their culture’s settlements. But it was not until 2008 when I was accepted to study at Galen University which is located in the Cayo District that I made acquaintances with people of the Mennonite Culture and visited their settlement of Spanish Lookout for the first time.
Prior to moving to Cayo, my only encounter with Mennonites came when I purchased ice cream from Western Dairies or purchasing furniture on North Front Street in Belize City. I knew of their settlement in Spanish Lookout but had never really given much thought to actually visit the place. After all, I had all the Western Dairies ice cream I needed right across the street from my grandmother’s house. Little did I know, Spanish Lookout would play a huge role in building my family’s business-literally!
My family owns a small resort named Amber Sunset Jungle Resort located in the village of Unitedville; approximately eight miles from Spanish Lookout. Built up in the hills, one of the most breath taking vantage points from the resort is overlooking the entire Spanish Lookout valley.
When construction commenced in April 2011 I was tasked with overseeing the entire project. When we would run out of nails or bags of cement or needed a special tool, I quickly discovered that Spanish Lookout was conveniently equipped to handle all of our needs. Stores such as Midwest Steel, Universal Hardware and Farmer’s Trading Center saw me frequently during the nine month construction period.
I remember on a hot day in May I was on a quest for deck screws in Spanish Lookout and decided to stop at Western Diaries for ice cream. I was amazed to find out they also sold the most amazing pizza! I discovered hearty meals at places such as Golden Coral, a buffet style restaurant, and Midway Diner, an air conditioned restaurant serving great American food.
As time went by I began to appreciate Spanish Lookout for more than their hardware stores and great restaurants. I began to take notice of the landscaping, the building layouts and the general attitude of the people.
Mentioning that the landscaping is breathtaking — from our resort we can see all the unique picturesque qualities of Spanish Lookout. The orchards and plantations standout in the background because of the way the crops are planted. It resembles an army lineup of soldiers; all in line one behind the other and not a branch out of place. Every couple weeks tractors can be spotted harvesting the fruits and sometimes even a plane acrobatically diving as it fertilizes the crops. In the community itself, most of the large stores have well-manicured gardens and lawns with perfectly allotted parking spaces. The roads are well paved and paint lined for different lanes, road signs can be seen clearly, dividers are in place to let traffic flow smoothly; everything it seems, is done in an orderly fashion.
The same can be said when entering their stores. One of the most impressive layouts is inside Westrac, a car parts and accessories store. The isles are perfectly spaced apart and adorned with products organized by brand and size. Impressive as well, is their use of technology. Westrac and most of their stores employ the use of bar code scanners, computers and security cameras.
Technology aside, what has impressed me the most about the Spanish Lookout is the people. The Mennonites are some of the nicest, kindest, most helpful people we have in Belize. The moment you enter their stores they greet you with a big smile. If you’re lost and can’t find an item, instead of pointing you in the right direction, they take you to exactly where it is. All the employees are well versed in the products and services they offer. Not once had I been referred to someone else when I had questions about something. They all are “Service Driven” (the mantra of Universal Hardware).
I believe the way they conduct business and reside within their community should be a model for all. For me, it is a great privilege to be able look out the window of my office and admire the beauty of Spanish Lookout from afar. For you, the privilege should be to live and experience it for yourself.