|Andre Perez with daughter Alanis
Bread is the basic staple of many households in Belize and worldwide. However, a bakery is a business and making it prosper requires the same amount, or maybe more, of dedication, perseverance and hard work as any other enterprise. A noble profession it is and one that Andre Perez has not only learned, loved but has made it successful.
Born in Orange Walk Town, Andre was the eldest in a family of eight children and the only boy. Parents Domingo and Ociola Perez welcomed their first child with open arms and big dreams. He remembers fondly the days spent at his father’s farm, growing pineapples, tomatoes, cucumbers and many more fruits and vegetables. “It was more of a hobby of my father’s, however, it was one that the entire family enjoyed,” he reminisces.
Andre attended La Immaculada Elementary and once graduated, made the decision to move to Belize City where he pursued his high school education at Saint John’s High School, an all boys institution. At St. John’s, Andre opted to go the business way rather than studying sciences. “I did not care so much for the crunching of number but the economics of business, the principles of it. That is one of the reasons I chose to go into the business field.” Successfully completing his high school education he went on to attend Junior College and continued with his business venture. “At St. John’s Junior College I again went into economics but there were three other subjects that piqued my interest. In Orange Walk, I had assisted my father in political campaigns before so the Introduction to Politics and International Relations courses really interested me.” His two years at St. John’s were completed and not only did Andre walk out of school with a diploma, but he also found the love of his life while attending school. Delia and Andre were very good friends and began weighing the options of what they would do; he lived in Orange Walk, she lived in Belize City.
Andre and Delia moved to Orange Walk and he got his first job as a cashier at the Belize Bank. With hard work and enthusiasm, Andre proved himself at work and soon began ascending the corporate ladder.
The couple tied the knot at an intimate gathering on December 12th, 1992. They are the proud parents of three beautiful girls, Samira (18), Alexia (12) and Alanis (7).
At a party, the Perez’s met Ariel Santana and his family. Santana, owner of La Popular Bakery, and his family became very good friends with the Perez’s. On a bright day, Santana approached Andre and informed him of a business venture. A bakery in San Pedro was in the process of being sold and Santana believed that opening a La Popular branch on the island would be successful; he proposed a joint venture, 50-50 shares. After careful consideration, Andre resigned from his post at the Belize Bank after eight years. He uprooted his family and moved to Ambergris Caye with high hopes.
Having no prior experience in the bakery field, Andre proceeded to teach himself the works. “I figured the economics of a business I knew. Getting the baking part was a bit harder,” he jokes.
On July 11th, 1997, Andre officially opened the doors to the bakery located where Lino’s Meat Shop is today. “It was all hands on, we all worked together. We had bakers but I would help slice, package and deliver all our products.” By December, the business was booming and Andre realized that the demand was there but it meant that to meet the island’s growing needs, expansion would be necessary.
Andre made yet another bold move, and purchased property in the Boca del Rio Area and in January of 1999, construction began. The dream: a new, spacious bakery. The success of La Popular grew as did their services and products. By 2002, Andre was able to purchase Santana’s shares in the business and he and his wife became the full owners.
The name, La Popular had to change and a joke from a friend became the bakery’s new name. “Why is it that many houses in San Pedro have names? Casa (Spanish for house) this and Casa that,” the friend said, “If tradition is the case, then Andre your house can be called Casa Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread Home).” And, that is how the name was born.
Throughout the years, Casa Pan Dulce has continued to succeed. Their products continue to change; recipes are altered while the public’s favorites remain the same. In the near future, Andre envisions yet another expansion. “We are growing and we need the space to continue to provide the best bread that we can possibly sell to our consumers.”
In his free time, Andre is an avid deep sea fisherman, having participated in many tournaments and also enjoys SCUBA diving with his daughter. His political participation has not waned either and worked hand in hand with his father during his campaign for Councilor of San Pedro Town, which he won in 2000. A loving father, adoring husband, savvy politician and sharp businessman, Andre Perez has proved that by working hard, having a bit of faith, and the support of your family, one can truly have a success story in “Our Belize Community.”