Maria Saelens - Best Cars

Maria Saelens may be 85 years of age but as soon the Easter holidays start, you will find her beavering away in her go-cart business hiring out her carts to all and sundry. Retirement is the furthest thing on Maria’s mind, ‘as long as my health permits, I’ll keep going’.

‘The go-carts are an important part of my life. Even during wintertime, when the shop is closed, you can’t keep me away. Then too I would pop in everyday to have a look around. My children sometimes tell me that there’s no fear of the shop running away. I am well aware of that of course but I can’t help myself.

I’m like the farmers, always drawn to their fields.

And yet, as a child I hardly ever visited the seaside, never rode a go-cart even. We used to live near Moerkerke and it wasn’t until my husband and I got married that I ended up in Zeebrugge. Chatting to other people in the business I became intrigued and that’s how I decided to set up my own one. On my own. My children had left home by then, only the youngest was still living here and, unfortunately, my husband had passed away. He died when my eldest daughter was 15 and my youngest son 9.

Meanwhile, I’ve been hiring out go-carts for some 40 years now. My nine grandchildren have spent loads of time here. When they were small, they stayed with me in the shop so that I could look after them. That was a great tradition. And as they got older, they all had a weekend/summer job here. One after the other, I had them all with me during the summer. That was great fun, both for them and for me. I have fond memories of those days.

I’m a familiar face around Blankenberge. Sometimes people drop by to check whether I’m still around. That’s one of the reasons why I love what I do. I’ve had one generation after the other through the doors and have quite a few customers I used to know as children, when they used to holiday at the seaside.

Now they come back with their own children. That is really special.

Sometimes people ask me when I’m planning on chucking it in but that doesn’t figure in my scheme of things. As long as I’m hale and hearty, I’ll keep going. Not that it’s a doddle. During the summer months, the days of anyone in the go-cart hire business are really long. I start at 10 am and stay open all day until about 8 pm. You’ll always find me at the entrance to my business to greet the people. Come noon, I don’t have time for a leisurely lunch. I have a quick sandwich or pastry with a cup of coffee. So being blessed with good health is extremely important. But then again, perhaps it’s the go-carts that keep me young?

Up to two years ago, I had no problems putting the two-seaters away myself. Now, I wait for reinforcement. When there are a few youngsters around, I ask them to give me a hand. My youngest son takes care of repairs but, other than that, I do most of it myself. Now and again, holiday jobbers lend a helping hand, but I often run the show on my own. Who will follow in my footsteps remains the question. More than anything, I hope that I’ll be able to keep going for a long time to come.’

Best Cars - Vanderstichelenstraat 45, 8370 Blankenberge, +32 (0)496/ 82 58 41

Due to the corona crisis, opening hours and timetables may vary. If in doubt, it is best to contact the entrepreneur himself.
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