The Cool Spot is housed in this round, 35’ diameter, 30’ high thatched roof structure across the garden from the kitchen that was previously the BFREE schoolhouse for the staff’s children. This space now contains a small shop, picnic tables and hammocks and is an ideal place to rest, read and socialize.
For years, guests to BFREE have requested a small shop for visitors to purchase drinks, snacks, and souvenirs while at the field station. Over time, BFREE has sold things in earnest – primarily when the Marlin kids (Sofia, Shaman and Hyla) have been around and interested in making a few extra bucks. They’ve sold everything from candy bars and Coca-Colas that their dad bought in town and transported back into the bush to mangoes and other garden fruits they picked that morning from the orchard. However, the desire for an established place to buy things at BFREE has persisted.
In response, BFREE secured the help of University of Florida professor Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray to help develop a store concept at the field station. She enlisted her undergraduate class, Entrepreneurial Recreation & Tourism, to brainstorm what BFREE’s store could look like and how it could operate. In Belize, a “Cool Spot” is a shanty type building on the side of the road where a passerby can stop to buy a cool drink and a snack. The Cool Spot idea was used as a jumping off point when first describing the project to the class early in the fall 2013 semester. The students were divided into thirteen groups of five and were challenged to run with the idea. Guided by Dr. Pennington-Gray, groups developed inventory lists, investigated green sources for purchasing items, designed the facility, created marketing plans, and considered how to operate an online store within the BFREE website as well. At the end of the semester, groups presented their recommendations to US for BFREE staff. Practical advice included methods for managing money and inventory with samples of budget sheets and schedules, while creative ideas featured themed nights with games and entertainment, fun foods and beverages and even a life-sized Jenga game!
In January 2014, architecture students from New York City College of Technology (NYCCT) came to BFREE to participate in a field course. This course, led by professor Lia Dikigoropoulou (NYCCT) and Jacob Marlin, challenged students to advance their understanding of architecture by investigating the unique structures at the field station. The students were tasked with completing architectural renderings of some facilities onsite including the composting bathrooms, the solar system, and the Hicatee Conservation and Research Center.
Using the UF students’ recommendations to get started, NYCCT’s next big assignment was to design the new Cool Spot at the old BFREE schoolhouse. Each of five students designed their ideal spot, presented their concept and received feedback. Ultimately, the class combined their ideas with those of Lia, Jacob, Marcelino Pop and others at BFREE to finalize a design. The next day, construction began with materials left over from various projects onsite and wood donated by the Gomez and Sons Sawmill. Marcelino led the team of students in their day and a half construction effort, and though amazing progress was made, there wasn’t enough time to finish the structure. After NYCCT’s departure, BFREE staff, Marcelino and Fernandes Sho, completed construction. In the months that followed, Jacob and Shaman Marlin researched and
selected items to add to the Cool Spot inventory, so that more than just snacks and drinks could be available for purchase. Chelsea Hetelson simplified the logo design for use on the various items and the orders were placed. Now when you visit the rainforest, you can take home BFREE memorabilia such as pens, baseball caps, t-shirts, BPA free water bottles, and more!