Our Community - Denise Harris & Jim Mathewson - "San Pedros merry merchants of meat"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 4            February 6, 2003

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Jim Mathewson and Denise Harris

San Pedro has always been known as a place where the residents are self-reliant and take it upon themselves to improve their lifestyle and that of the entire town. Lately, island residents have gone a step further and their homemade products have begun to pop up in the local markets and some are even being exported. More than just a local treat, these homemade liqueurs, wines and processed meats, are now another ingenious way of promoting Ambergris Caye. This week The San Pedro Sun is pleased to introduce the island's first producers of fresh smoked meats and sausages - Denise Harris and Jim Mathewson.

    Jim was born in San Jose, California, USA, on September 15th, 1943 to Bernice and Charles Mathewson (deceased). Jim grew up in Monterey, California where he attended Monterey High School and then received an Associates Degree in Art from Shasta College in Redding, California. Jim also served his country in the US Navy for six years.

    In 1966, Jim went to work for a sausage manufacturing business (Quality Smoke House) as a dish washer/janitor. In time, Jim learned the tricks of the trade through hands-on experience and nine years later became the owner of Quality Smoke House and fresh meat butcher shop. His place, a very popular spot, was located right across the street from actor Clint Eastwood's Hogs Breath Inn, in Carmel, California. 

    In 1969, after selling the smoke house, Jim returned to Redding, California where he worked as a wine salesman until 1976 when he reopened his former business naming it "The Sausage Factory". His business eventually expanded into a restaurant, pizzeria and catering business, which later branched out to four other locations in California. Jim's reputation for supplying quality foods gained him a large clientele throughout the state making his products a favorite on dinner tables and at social gatherings. Although the business was thriving, the demand was exhausting and Jim was ready for a slower pace of life.

    Having vacationed in Ambergris Caye for the past ten years, Jim and his partner Denise Harris, a retired customer service trainer and supervisor, decided this would be the best spot to "slow down". In March 2001, Jim and Denise moved to "La Isla Bonita"  and first constructed their home. The laid back lifestyle of Ambergris Caye was exactly what the doctor had ordered for this couple, but Jim grew restless and decided to start up a smaller scale of his California business as a distraction. In May of 2002, Jim and Denise introduced a "first" to this island by establishing The Sausage Factory. What the couple did not count on was the overwhelming acceptance and immediate demand for the products they created. But why would the islanders be so excited about these simple, yet quality products? The answer lies exactly there - Jim and Denise introduced San Pedro to mouthwatering meats such as ham, bacon, turkey and roast beef, flavored basically with natural smoke, sausages in natural casing; plus treats that were once very rare to locals such as spicy beef sticks and beef jerky.

    Today, The Sausage Factory products have become a household name and are served in most restaurants on the island. The entire process involved in the manufacturing of these goods is performed at the factory and sold fresh. Better than that, all meats are from 100% Belizean raised stock. Open five-days-a-week, The Sausage Factory is a huge success and fully accepted by the island people, hotels and restaurants from the northern to the southern tip of Ambergris Caye.

    Today, Jim and Denise work around the clock to provide their clientele with the optimum in quality when it comes to their products. When they are not at work, they enjoy doing what first attracted them to San Pedro - scuba diving, fishing and enjoying the beautiful weather found in this little part of "paradise".  

    Through The Sausage Factory, Denise and Jim have been able to provide not only freshness but also a very unique flavor to the tables and tummies in "Our Community."

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