The recent closures of businesses such as Island Companies’ British Outpost store on the corner of Dr. Roy’s Drive, the Ali Kebab location in George Town, Senor Frogs, Bachus Restaurant, the Chocolate Box means the face of George Town is changing.
The Observer spoke with some of the business owners in George Town to learn more about the factors affecting business and what the prospects were for the remaining enterprises down town.
“We are in a better location after having moved two years ago,” said Paula Thomas at Arabus. She explained that though this was the case, there was no rhyme or reason to the way in which people frequented the store and added that she felt what gave Arabus its staying power in the current economy was “the local dollar”.
“I find that the businesses who have built up a local clientele and are not as dependant on the cruise ships are the ones that are still doing well enough,” said Thomas. She added that, “Summer came early this year and things weren’t that bad till a couple of weeks ago.”
At De Sunglass Man the sentiment was the same, though the employees asked not to be named.
They said the merchandise from their sister store British Outpost was amalgamated into other Island Company Stores and added that De Sun Glass Man would be moving to a new Fort Street location to occupy the space where Bernard Passman’s Gallery is located.
Charms n More is another store that was located on the Water Front and has moved. It is now next to De Sun Glass Man in an area that is more dependant on local business than the companies that occupy the waterfront (proper).
The operator in Charms and More said, “Things are very slow at the moment and the rent is too high in George Town, there is no parking and all the businesses have moved to Camana Bay making it impossible for business to thrive.”
She asked not to be named.
Currently the whole top floor of the Island Companies Building, which was once leased by the Saad Investments Group, is now vacant.
Sirena Webster of Sirena’s in the Island Companies Building said, “Nothing is going on. No locals, no tourist; nothing. And the crime have everyone scared. If I make fifty dollars I run to the bank with it.”
She added that business was not near where things were last year and that the next five to six months did not look good.
At the Kirk Freeport Perfumery the story was slightly different and the girls on the floor in the store said they are traditionally a store that sees both local and cruise business.
“It’s an authentic makeup store and a lot of people gravitate to that,” said Joan Clarke at the store.
Michelle Burke, who is the manager for Harbour Drive Jewellers shared similar sentiments, explaining that things were going quite well at the store and that things were always seasonal.
“It’s right on the waterfront and everyone knows that Cardinal Avenue is the main shopping street in George Town. People identify with the brands that are carried downtown,” she said.
Jill Bodden, owner of the Jack and Jill Building, said a jewellery store would be going in the space where the Bachus Restaurant was located before. He added that his tenants were all making their rent payments on time and that, “Once them cruise ships keep coming, we should be OK.”
Bodden added that, “Tourists are looking for safe places to go and though we are not 100 per cent safe, we are one of the best in the West Indies.”