Local quits corporate life for bar in Belize

May 16, 2013
Michael Gerrard (bottom right) is leaving his job at ING in Windsor, Conn., to own and operate Average Joe's Bar in Belize.
Photos courtesy of Michael Gerrard
By Katelyn Gendron


The choice between long days behind a desk at ING in Windsor, Conn., and life as a small business owner on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, was an easy one for Hampden, Mass., native Michael Gerrard, 53.

After more than 20 years in the corporate arena with annual vacations to the Caribbean, Gerrard has finally found the job — and the permanent vacation — he's meant for: the owner of Average Joe's (AJ's) Bar in San Pedro.

"If you're afraid to take chances, you're not going to go anywhere. I've been in corporate America for years and years and I got tired of sitting at a desk and I wanted to have a fun job," Gerrard told Reminder Publications, assuring that this decision was no mid-life crisis but something he's been planning for quite some time.

"I've actually wanted to move to the Caribbean for more than 20 years now and open up some type of small business, nothing in particular, just something that I could make a comfortable living with," he explained. "Each year I've take a vacation down there to different locations to 'scout' the area and look for business opportunities ... I was just on the web searching for businesses for sale and found this opportunity."

Gerrard will close on the bar June 28 but will arrive in his new home, complete with a two-bedroom condo overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the week prior.

When asked if he was nervous about uprooting his entire life, he replied, "I'm basically gambling everything I have on this. I went down there, I signed all the [preliminary] paperwork [several weeks ago] and then I had a panic attack that night. It's stressful and nerve wracking but it's going to be a good fit. It's going to be something that I like to do."

Gerrard noted that his professional experience in corporate information technology sourcing and contract negotiating would aid him in maintaining the financial viability of the business.

"AJ's is a very casual place that caters to both the locals and tourists to hang out. They are known to have the best wings on the island and they do — along with burgers, [hot] dogs, etc. The only real change in the immediate future is me taking ownership of it. The staff will all be staying on; I've met with all of them and we are all excited about it. The menu will also stay the same as well, after all, if it's not broken don't fix it," he explained, adding that he will be making some structural improvements to increase patio seating.

"One thing I will be doing is encouraging my customers to hang their country's flags on the walls and any other personal memorabilia they want to create an eclectic collection and make people feel like AJ's is a part of them," Gerrard added.

"My goal is to continue to make AJ's a place where good friends gather, and new friends are made'; a place that mixes locals and tourists together, and to have great times, and to create some wonderful memories. I want to keep it somewhat 'simple' not complicated or overly time consuming for me. After all, I will have a lot of exploring to do in Central America so I want to be sure I have the ability to do just that ... I plan to help out and support the local Ambergris/San Pedro community as they have been helpful to me in making the transition down there. Giving back to the community is important to me and I want to do my part to help out," he continued.

When asked if his friends and family were supportive of his move, Gerrard replied, "I can say that everyone has been supportive of my decision and of course, who wouldn't like a friend who lives in the Caribbean and owns a bar. Several are already starting to plan their winter vacations, to Belize. Everyone is also pretty jealous that my main wardrobe will be flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts, year round once I'm there, even at work."

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