The Harmouche Brothers: Making a life in a new land

Mike Harmouche's new store in San Juan
Fifteen years ago Simon Harmouche was working in the family business in his native Lebanon. The Harmouches, a family of exporters, sent fruit to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; ten to twenty refrigerated containers a month and as many as thirty in the summer. Up to two hundred employees worked for them, packing and loading apples, oranges, peaches and other Lebanese produce. Today Simon sits behind a desk at his San Pedro Hardware Store on Coconut Drive, coming out to wait on customers and make deals on merchandise. Instead of fruit he sells plumbing supplies, nails, tools and anything related to the building industry but to Simon business is business.

When asked about the business outlook for San Pedro Harmouche was guardedly optimistic.

"There is a lot of business in San Pedro," Harmouche said, "but there are lots of stores, too. Stores of all kinds and many restaurants, too."

The Harmouche family is optimistic enough to invest their money in San Pedro business ventures. George Harmouche, one of Simon's brothers, is the owner of Harmouch Hardware on Pescador Drive across from Finaís Store. He is building a new store south of town near Rockís II Store. Brother Mike is building a store in San Juan at the intersection where the San Juan statue once stood.

"I have a younger brother, Daniel," Simon said, "who opened a big hardware store in Caye Caulker. He changed it from a hardware store to a grocery store and then he opened a smaller hardware store."

Simon was attending Loyala University in New Orleans in the U.S.A. when he met his future wife, who was also a Loyola Student. When they got married he moved to Belize and worked for a year with Habetís Hardware of Belize City which is owned by his wife's family. The war in Kuwait took its toll on the Harmouche fruit export business and one by one, Simon brought his brothers to Belize.

Simon sent for George when San Pedro Hardware was still located on Barrier Reef Drive across from the Lion's Den. The youngest brother, Daniel, then came and established his store in Caye Caulker. Now, brother Mike is here, also.

"In the ten years that I have been here, I have gone back to Lebanon three times to visit," Simon said. "It is just to visit, though. Belize is my home now."

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