Our Community - Denise and Dave Soukup - "Finding a 'slice of paradise' on Ambergris Caye"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 6            February 20, 2003

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Denise and Dave Soukup

IIn order to cater to the diversity of the tourists that now visit "La Isla Bonita," the business community has found it necessary to offer a much larger variety of services for their clientele. This is true when it comes to accommodations, tours and restaurants. Today, the island of Ambergris Caye boasts a variety of eateries ranging from top-of-the-line restaurants for those with expensive taste, to quick take-out dinners. >From gourmet cuisine to pizzas, one thing these businesses have in common is top-notch service and quality food. This week The San Pedro Sun takes pleasure in introducing an island couple who were pioneers in the pizza business and have brought to San Pedro a wonderful "slice" of this international cuisine - Denise and Dave Soukup.

    Dave was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 29th, 1961 to Fred and Nancy Soukup. Predestined for a romantic encounter, Dave moved with his family to Spokane, Washington where he befriended and fell in love with Denise Mantello. Both Denise and Dave attended Mead School and following their graduation from this institution, joined their lives in Holy Matrimony on November 22nd, 1981. Dave then joined the US Navy as an Aviation Ordinance working with weapons, small arms and bombs. Shortly after his enlistment with the Navy, Dave was transferred to Okinawa, Japan and the couple spent the next three and a half years there.

    On December 20th, 1983, while still in Japan, the Soukups became the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl they named Tressa. Aside from the time involved discovering the joys of motherhood, Denise also managed to obtain an Associates Degree in Business at the Asian division of the University of Maryland.

    Following his scheduled term in Japan, Dave and Denise returned to Spokane with Tressa, and both immediately got back into the work force. Dave went to work for a TV station (shipping/receiving tapes, movie editing) for a year and a half until this business closed following the death of its owner. Dave then worked unloading freight trucks from 1:00 to 7:00 a.m. and spent the rest of the day doing other odd jobs available. To help with the family expenses, Denise became employed as a customer services agent at a computer company for one year. It was during this time that Dave got his big break. He met a gentleman who was planning to start what was to become the third largest pizza franchise in the United States. Dave was hired as the first employee (manager) of the first pizza shop in Spokane. In the next two years, this pizza business expanded to include 13 stores, and Dave was promoted to district manager of the 13 locations. Denise also came aboard as office manager for the company.

    In 1988 though, Dave was ready for a new challenge and decided to join his father in the insurance business as an adjustor for the next year and a half. Denise also opted for a new career and became an independent insurance auditor.

    Although the Soukups were involved in their new careers, they had left their mark while in the pizza business. Their services were soon sought after by their former employer at the pizza franchise. He offered Denise and Dave a partnership in the business soon to be opened in the tri-city area of Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Washington. Encouraged by this proposal, the Soukups accepted the deal and returned to the pizza business (both sharing the various tasks). A year later, Denise and Dave became the sole owners of all three stores, employing over forty workers. Denise and Dave renamed the business PepperOni's. The couple agreed to give themselves ten years in the tri-city area and then return to the island life they had cherished while in Okinawa, Japan. As planned, they stuck to their commitment but during their ten years of successful business, they continued to look for their "piece of paradise."

    The Soukups first learned about Belize through Dave's brother, a frequent visitor to San Pedro, who was in the process of moving there. "He suggested we move here too, so I decided to check it out myself. What I encountered in San Pedro - the weather, the wonderful hospitality, and the laid-back lifestyle - was the perfect combination for our change," Dave told The San Pedro Sun.  

    Upon his return to the US, Dave convinced Denise about this new found "haven" and she, trusting his good judgment, decided to go with the flow. Already a plan had been created in Dave's mind. He bought a 1960 Boles Arrow trailer, parked it in his back yard, and began to refurbish it into a pizza shop on wheels. When this mobile pizza shop was ready to roll, Dave and Denise sold their pizza business and their house and headed for a new adventure in Belize.

    Dave pulled the pizza trailer from Washington State to Houston, Texas. It was shipped to Belize City and then barged to "La Isla Bonita" where it was parked in its rightful spot on Coconut Drive. On April 22nd, 2002 the Soukups proudly opened the tropical branch of PepperOni's Pizza. The local population and tourists soon embraced this business with open arms. After 18 years in the business, Denise and Dave still make the pizzas themselves to ensure only the best of quality. Another secret of their success is their very friendly disposition. Denise and Dave can often be seen chatting with clients while they wait (only a few minutes) for delicious pizza - made to their liking. "We are very happy about the way we have been received here. At first I thought it was going to be more of a challenge to open a business on the island but the community has been very responsive to our needs and we are very appreciative," stated Dave. "We are especially thankful for our local customers who are the ones who keep us going," added Denise.

    Today, Denise and Dave are still hard at work six-days-a-week. They have also recently begun construction on their house on Ambergris Caye - another proud achievement for the happy couple. Although they remain busy most of the week, when time is available Dave enjoys playing horseshoes on the beach, while Denise soaks up the sun. The couple also take pleasure in walking their black Labrador, Roscoe. Denise also volunteers her spare time for the Saga Humane Society.

    Denise and Dave have managed to cook up the perfect recipe for success and San Pedro is happy to indulge in their wonderful pizza creations. Without a doubt, this husband and wife team are the preferred topping in "Our Community."

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