Robert Lopez, owner of Hummingbird Rattan, started the company ten years ago when he was just out of college. Lopez’s company has grown from its one-man operation to its present employment of fifty Belizean workers, creating an impact in the Belmopan job market.
Much of Hummingbird’s raw material is imported. Lopez’s research revealed that of approximately four hundred species of rattan that grow worldwide, four of them grow in Belize. Unfortunately, the Belizean species is a dark grey in color, is too brittle and has a tendency to crack. Locally called basket ti-tai it is used in the weaving of baskets on the mainland.
"At Hummingbird Rattan we have tried to find our niche by trying to blend as much wood as possible with the rattan," Lopez said. "Combining wood with rattan puts the furniture in a different class and makes it stronger."
The result is furniture that would be as much at home in a Paris penthouse as in a thatchroofed cabaña in San Pedro.
"One of my first sales was to the Sunbreeze Hotel here in San Pedro," Lopez said. "Our furniture is fully warranteed for a year and we sell a maintenance program. We used to send a crew to visit San Pedro to service our products. Now we will always have a crew here for maintenance."
Some products of Hummingbird Rattan are exported to High Point, North Carolina, the furniture manufacturing center of the U.S. Woven assemblies for chair bottoms and backs are shipped to High Point where U.S. manufacturers use them in their own chairs.
"A good example of this," Lopez said, "is a porch rocker that is featured in the L.L. Bean catalogue. We made the woven seat for the rocking chair."
Construction of the company’s building is moving along rapidly and San Pedro residents will soon be able to visit the showroom. It is located approximately halfway between Rocks II and Mar de Tumbo.