Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

From Island Store to Island Brand

The new Serrano Industrial store.

Serrano Industrial New Store Location Opens Its Doors

After 31 years in business, Roatan’s iconic Serrano Industrial opens a second location in Coxen Hole. While the island has been forced to shut down since mid-march because of government’s COVID-19 policy, Roatan’s construction sector has been sustaining thousands of islanders. Serrano’s has been helping the island to weather the biggest economic crisis in its history.

Serrano Industrial is the oldest hardware store on the island and its humble roots date to a time when hard work made your reputation. If a cruise ship tears a hole in its hull the captain sends its people to buy supplies at Serrano’s. When an islander wants to fix a wooden porch, they go to Serrano’s. The iconic hardware store has been an island fixture for over three decades. Serrano is still the hardware store we all remember from our youth, but where most places that hardware store is gone, it is quite alive on the western edge of Coxen Hole.

There is a family feeling at the store and shopping here is like visiting part of the family you haven’t seen for a while. Over the years the customers got used to seeing the owners always available, accessible and sitting at a desk right at the store entrance. “They are small contractors, builders and older people,” says about her clients Jennie Serrano. Jennie is the store’s sales and purchasing director. Her mother Debra is the owner, GM and director. “She is the boss,” says about her mother Jennie.

You tell the Serrano’s your plans and they find tools for you to make them happen. The store has the reputation of having some of the best lumber on the island. “Mrs. Debra and her daughter are really quality people,” said Boby Rieman, a veteran building contractor. “You’d go there for excellent customer service.”

It all began when Ignacio Serrano came to Roatan from La Ceiba. Born in 1927, Mr. Ignacio or “Don Nacho or Nachio” was a builder who helped to construct Cay View Hotel for the Merren Family and build the first Baptist church in Coxen Hole.

According to Manuel Serrano, his father built the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge No. 3 named after Agustín Disdier in La Ceiba. The lodge is one of the 10 Masonic Lodges on the Honduras mainland.

There was a quiet boom on Roatan those days. Coxen Hole was expanding and first roads were being paved. Honduran president José Azcona appointed Ignacio Serrano as Roatan’s customs office administrator, a post he worked at for two years.

Before he had a store, Ignacio Serrano had a block building business and begun manufacturing and selling cement parts for fencing, window bars, and cement blocks. This enterprise prompted him to eventually open a hardware store. “Construction was his passion, and he saw a business opportunity,” says Jennie about her father. “It was the time the island was starting to develop.” Soon Serrano Industrial store was selling lumber, rebar, blocks, PVC, nails and even car parts.

The enterprise started in a four by eight meter “bodega” where the manufactured building elements and other basic hardware were stored. It started with him, a helper and cash register girl. His wife Debra soon joined the staff. “My mother knew about construction business,” says Jennie.

The store has the reputation of having some of the best lumber on the island.

Roatan already had several hardware stores. There was the G&G Hardware owned by Marco Galindo, McLaughlin Lumber owned by Larry McLaughlin and Woods Hardware in French Harbour. According to Jennie, the stores didn’t compete, but complemented each other and cross referred customers and recommended supplies from other stores.

Much of the supplies sold at the Serrano Industrial store in 1980s and 1990s came from Puerto Cortés. Libby Bodden, Jennie Serrano’s grandfather, captained the 70 foot La Juanita on her passage from Puerto Cortés. “Now they privatized the port at Puerto Cortés and the docking fees became prohibitively expensive. They charge by the hour, maybe 5,000 Lps, do dock there,” says Frank Pineda, manager at Serrano Industrial.

The Juanita boat in Oak Ridge harbour.

When in 1998 Category 5 Hurricane Mitch headed towards the Bay Islands thousands of anxious people tried to prepare for the storm’s impact and secure their homes. “We saw how desperate the people were and we had to turn them away,” remembers the powerful Hurricane Jennie. “We sold out. We had not one nail left to sell when Mitch hit,” remembers Jennie.

The company has been quietly helping nonprofits and sports teams on the island from its inception. “Whoever knocks at our door looking for help and with a good cause, we help,” says Jennie Serrano.

Serrano’s helped to build some of the island’s biggest developments in the 1990s: AKR, Coco View, Las Palmas and Palmetto Bay Plantation. In 1998 a first delivery truck was purchased by the company. In 2000, with the passing of Mr. Ignacio, his wife and children stepped in to help with running of the store.

There were some hard times along the last three decades. “I don’t know how we survived,” remembers the long period when Coxen Hole streets were turn up in order to place sewer pipes in. The project caused major disruption to main street Coxen Hole businesses. “It’s a huge thing for us as a business and as a family,”

Despite and maybe because of mainland competition the store has kept up with the changing times. “You can order by phone, via WhatsApp, via Email or in person,” says Jennie about the stores faithful clients who have been supporting the store for decades.

In 2004 the Serrano Industrial purchased a plot of land owned by Church of God’s Pastor Isau Brooks, west of Petro Sun gas station in Coxen Hole. In 2014 the design process begun and by November 2018 they broke ground for the new 1,200 meter square new store.

Jennie Serrano studied business at San Pedro Sula University and came back to help out in 1990s. “This is what you did back then: you were either accountant or a secretary,” says Jennie. When Alessandra Serrano, Jennie’s daughter begun working at the store in 2020 the hardware store has become a place where three generations of the family help out.

On July 7, the new Serrano Industrial store officially opened its doors to the public. The new location has a plant nursery, much larger power tools, home and electrical departments and a coffee shop. “We want to show our culture. For the building to have softer, more ‘islandy’ look. We wanted to give it an identity,” says Jennie. Serrano Industrial has 45 employees and six delivery trucks. The plan is for the original 500 square meter store in Coxen Hole to remain open for at least a year.