Robert's Grove celebrating 10th anniversary

Even after 10 years as co-owners and operators of The Inn at Robert's Grove, Risa and Bob Frackman still think of the property as their home.

"When we built Robert's Grove, it started out as a winter vacation getaway for us," Risa said. "Bob and I still look at it as our home� we love it here." Though both native New Yorkers, the couple spend the majority of their time in Belize each year. "Placencia is a destination that both Bob and I just fell in love with," she added.

Their love of Belize led them to purchase the property that would eventually become The Inn at Robert's Grove. With both of them feeling a little restless in their respective, well-established careers in public relations and land development, Risa and Bob were "open to new ideas."

"The first time we drove down (to Placencia) from New York, we stopped at this little inn in Virginia for the night. I told Bob I felt like we were pioneers� he said it felt like we were on a honeymoon, starting a new life together (they had been married just five years at that time)."

The couple, who had always enjoyed entertaining family and friends, decided to commit to "a little bed and breakfast kind of thing," and opened their first four rooms. Risa, who had always enjoyed preparing gourmet meals for guests back home, would cook up dinner for eight every night.

But as their guest list expanded, Risa discovered her skills were not quite designed for large-scale fine dining. They installed a professional grade kitchen and hired the Inn's chef, Frank Da Silva. "He's been at the Inn almost as long as we have," Risa said.

Upon retiring her apron, Risa dove into the marketing of the resort, putting her PR expertise to use, while Bob, the visionary, saw to the business operations and future development. At the time, the Frackmans were really the only people in southern Belize who were operating a luxury resort. "There's a lot more development here now," Risa said.

But even though Robert's Grove is no longer the only full service resort in the area, it was the first - and the Frackmans work hard to ensure that it remains the best. Its nine, hacienda-style beachfront and beachview buildings include 52 rooms and suites that reflect their desire to combine casual charm and elegance with supreme comfort.

"We wanted to design a resort that embodied everything we loved; a place that we would be happy to visit ourselves," Risa said. "So while we are surrounded by all of this natural, raw beauty� we made sure that the resort had all the creature comforts that were important to us - good food, air conditioning, a good shower, a comfortable bed and attractive, comfortable fur-nishings and original artwork."

But the accommodations are just the beginning of the pleasures offered at Robert's Grove. The resort also features two dining facilities and a wide variety of recreational facilities and equipment. Some of the amenities offered include: three swimming pools, rooftop Jacuzzis, a tennis court, fitness center, one of the best PADI dive shops in Belize, which will begin offering Nitrox diving this season, (it will be the only Nitrox Center in Placencia), a sport fishing shop and a fleet of fishing and diving boats. The Sea Spa offers facials, massages, wraps, manicures and pedicures, and the Lounge at Robert's Grove is a favorite local nightspot.

And for those who really, truly want to "get away from it all," the Frackmans also have two privately owned islands, Ranguana Caye and Robert's Caye, which they have opened to guests for a more rustic, secluded vacation experience.

While the popularity of the resort has grown, as it has hosted its share of celebrity guests, the Frackmans take pride in giving all of their guests the star treatment.

"We enjoy greeting our guests and getting to know them and their families, and are always happy to see them return year after year," said Bob. "It's a lot of work, but it's a place we've poured our hearts into, and we like to think that shows."

"We've had guests come up to us as they were leaving and say, 'Thank you so much for having us in your home,'" Risa added. "We still have that warm, cozy atmosphere - it's not an impersonal hotel. Most of our guests really do get that, and that's what keeps them coming - and coming back."

Bob and Risa Frackman first established The Inn at Robert's Grove 10 years ago. Though it has grown to be-come one of Belize's finest luxury resorts, the couple still thinks of it as their home. One of the most famous and popular events at The Inn at Robert's Grove is its weekly Saturday Poolside Barbe-cue Buffet, which features a live reggae band.