Sami, born in Detroit, Michigan,
discovered at an early age that she had a passion for dancing. Upon
graduating from high school, she immediately became a dance instructor at
the Arthur Murray School of Dance studio in Ann Arbor. Bored with the
cold Michigan weather, Sami made a fateful decision to move west for a
little fun in the sun.
Pursuing a dance career in California, Sami also
gained a real estate license and worked as a printer, eventually earning
a Journeyman Printer's card. This last career choice and her love of
travel led her to Hawaii and across the Pacific to Australia's Gold
Coast. Meeting new people and experiencing life in different places
brought out the "gypsy" inside Sami and she continued her travels. After
four years in Sydney and on the Great Barrier Reef, Sami traveled to
Cambodia, Thailand, Maylasia, Singapore, Bali and to Hong Kong, where she
taught English. After dancing her way across Europe, Sami decided it was
time to return to the United States.
Ever the entrepreneur, Sami next established a
sizeable interior decorating business - all the while selling real estate
and immersing her extra energy in dance and theater. After a time, Sami
longed for the excitement of the "big city" again and moved to the glitz
and glamour of Las Vegas, Nevada.
While dancing in Las Vegas, Sami met Aida Graf.
Aida, the youngest of four children, was born on the island of Puerto
Rico. Moving to the US at the age of five, she was raised in the "city
that never sleeps" - New York City. Following her schooling, Aida made a
living as a professional hairdresser for fifteen years and raised two
sons, Peter and Mathew. Her children grown, Aida made a complete
lifestyle change and became the owner/operator of a small amusement park
in southern Vermont. As the park was a seasonal business (April -
October), Aida spent the remainder of the year at her "winter" home in
Las Vegas. When she sold her business twelve years later, she packed up
and moved to the Nevada city to pursue her hobby, as a dancer.
In Las Vegas, Aida became very good friends with
her fellow dancer, and eventually moved in with her new roommate - Sami.
As the two women danced the night away and sold timeshares by day they
grew weary of the traffic and stress of Vegas. Looking for an island to
kick back on, Sami and Aida happened upon Ambergris Caye in October 1999.
Like so many others before them, they "just fell in love with the caye."
Returning to the US, it took less than a
month for them to realize that San Pedro offered the perfect place for
them to live. Leaving their jobs, Sami and Aida packed up and moved to
Ambergris Caye. On December
7th,1999 - less than
two months after their initial visit, the two friends arrived on "La Isla
Bonita." They started out selling timeshares and made many friends along
the way. More and more often, customers and friends complimented them on
their flowery island-style "tie-on" pants that Sami had purchased in
California. These comments turned into requests for the island wear,
jokingly referred to as "2-second release" clothing. Not individuals to
turn away when opportunity knocked, Sami and Aida borrowed a sewing
machine and the two independent women created a fashion enterprise -
"Isla Bonita Designs".
Working out of their apartment, Sami and Aida
labored round-the-clock, sewing during the week and selling to tourists
(and locals) on the weekend. Developing a unique marketing concept, the
two combined their love of dancing and meeting people with selling their
product. Invited to promote the clothing at entertainment spots with live
music or a lively crowd, the two friends donned their own creations,
combined modeling with dancing, and sparked a demand for "tie-it-on"
clothing all over the island. Packing a trunk full of designs, every
Sunday Sami and Aida would travel to Casey's Palapa Bar or the barbecue
at BC's Bar, where Charlene dubbed them the "The Production Girls".
Greeted with much enthusiasm, gift shop managers (Eli Perly
of Banyan Bay was their first client) began to request tie and
wrap-around clothing for island resorts. A customer base established,
Sami and Aida expanded their line to include dresses, pants, skirts,
bikini tops and shorts. Supplying the demand, the next obvious step was
to open a retail
On July 1, 2000, Sami and Aida officially opened the
doors to "Isla Bonita Designs" inside the Island Plaza on Barrier Reef
Drive. Operating the store by themselves, the two women worked long hours
both producing and selling the product inside their tiny store. They had
succeeded in creating something from nothing on an island in the
To supply an ever-increasing demand, The Production
Girls hired their first employee, and within a year found it necessary to
relocate to a space twice the size of their original store.
Today, after three years in business, Sami and Aida
operate Isla Bonita Designs "a little further up the street" on Upper
Barrier Reef Drive in front of the new Belize Bank. Always expanding, the
business currently supports four employees as well. The "girls" have
added an entire line of ladies clothing as well as men's shirts, pants
and "do-rags". True entrepreneurs, their store is unique to our island.
"Handmade on the premises," customers may walk in, choose a style, pick a
fabric, and have their garment custom-made in just twenty-four hours or
When Sami and Aida are not working, they enjoy
walking on the beach, feeling the breeze, and are always in the mood to
go dancing. Aida attributes her success to her parents; "My parents would
be so proud of me; my mom worked in a ësweat shop' for twenty years and
my dad was a machinist. I only wish they were alive and he could fix
these ë!&*$@?' machines when they break down."
Sami hopes that someday when her granddaughter Shara
is old enough for college, her daughter April will leave her job as a
surgical nurse and move to San Pedro to carry on the "legacy". Then the
Production Girls can pursue more traveling or as Sami calls it "the
Sami Blouin and Aida Graf appreciate the life
they live and all the folks "that believed in us," who helped them
realize their dream of living on an island and becoming part of "a
family" in San Pedro. Look out "Sachs Fifth Avenue," The Production Girls
have outdone you in "Our Community."