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Smiling Meats undergoes transition

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Tues. July 25, 2023

On Monday, July 24, residents of Belize City were taken aback by the news that the well-known Smiling Meats store on New Road would be undergoing a change in ownership.

Matthew Smiling, owner of the establishment, told local media during an interview that his grandfather and father started the business in 1928 at the Belize City Market. Since then, the business has remained in the family’s hands, with Matthew taking the reins in 1990. However, after 30 years of dedicated service, he made the tough decision to sell it.

Matthew confirmed, however, that, while the business has been sold, it will not be closing down.

“I found someone that wants to buy it, and we worked out an agreement,” he said. “This negotiation has been going on for over a year or almost a year. My dad was well aware of it and gave me full support. So, it’s not because of his death.”

Matthew was tight-lipped about the new owner’s identity, but shared that the deal had been finalized with a Belizean group in the meat business from the Orange Walk District and not “Chinese businessmen,” debunking speculations circulating on social media.

“The staff is going to be here still. It’s just new management. The name will remain, and the quality process we’re known for will continue,” he assured.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by the business in recent years, Matthew attributed the decline in distribution of the store’s products to the impact of COVID-19, highlighting how the pandemic severely affected the tourism industry, which was a significant source of customers for his business.

Prior to the pandemic, he served numerous resorts, but with their closure, his sale of imported meat diminished.

He spoke of the difficulty in obtaining importation licenses, which led to a shift towards selling locally produced products. Despite his efforts to address these issues, Smiling felt he was not treated fairly. as he encountered obstacles when trying to obtain an importation license for meat products.

“I have receipts. I took pictures. I went to restaurants and I took pictures of the menu, and they’re advertising imported products. I have receipts of imported products that I bought which I sent to the ministry. ‘Please explain to me how you are saying that you’re not giving a permit, but I could go and find these products?’” he noted in frustration.

The shop on New Road has been a cherished part of the community for decades, and as it enters this new chapter under fresh management, the well-recognized name will live on, preserving the legacy of the Smiling family’s long-standing contribution to Belize’s culinary heritage.

Looking ahead, Matthew expressed uncertainty about his future plans. “I don’t know what’s next, but I’m a survivor,” he said with determination.