Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
MANDEVILLE, Manchester:WHEN MERVELINE Hanson won the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Hospitality Award recently, there were no frowns. There was nothing but respect and appreciation shown for a woman who, through hard work and dedication, has elevated herself to the pinnacle of the hospitality business in Manchester.
Hanson, who hails from the farming district of Rose Hall, St Elizabeth, came from humble beginnings
With not many opportunities in her home district for young people, she decided to move out. She journeyed to Mandeville and started working at a restaurant. "From an early age, I had a love for cooking," Hanson said. "You know, growing up in the country, it was our duty as young girls to cook, so I used to cook for my family, so it became a part of me."
Armed with great ambitions to be successful in life by running her own business, in 1983 she the bold step towards achieving her dream and opened a restaurant on Main Street, Mandeville. "My first business was called Options Restaurant and Lounge," Hanson said. "Most people called it Merv, though, and later, I started to use that name for my business ventures."
Hanson never looked back from that first move and later got the contract for the then Cable & Wireless cafeteria, which she had for five years.
She relocated her restaurant on Main Street to Nashville in Mandeville.
"I opened other restaurants on Caledonia Road as well," Hanson said. "At one time, I had four businesses on Caledonia Road: a cocktail lounge across from the hospital, a restaurant at Midway Mall, I was running the canteen at the hospital, and I had another restaurant further up across from Scotiabank called Capri.
Now going 30 years in the restaurant business, Hanson has scaled down and now operates a scenic restaurant at Midway Mall called Mervs Restaurant and a 'fine and dine' restaurant at Villa Road called Villa Gardens. "At Villa Gardens, you can get Chinese, Italian, and some local dishes. We also cater for weddings and other functions," Hanson said.
Speaking about winning the award, Hanson said: "It was a great feeling! I got a letter that I was nominated, and I felt good when I heard that I won it. It was a feeling of accomplishment and being recognised for all the hard work you have put in."
Hanson added: "I feel good that I came from a little district and to know that I can get out of there. You have some people complaining 'I can't make it, I can't do it because I born in poverty' and those things. I tell them no, you don't have to stay in it, you can make it, but you have to dedicate yourself because it takes hard work to succeed."
Commenting on the sacrifices she has made in order to succeed, she said. "I wake up at 5 a.m. every morning and not going home until 1 a.m. I am also hands-on in all my business, so that's a lot of work."
She said her personality had a lot to do with the success of her business. "Personality helps. When you can call your customers by name, you can hug them, talk to them, it's a great thing. No matter where I am from, people walk in. I am the first person to walk out to them and say hi, how are you doing."