Country Shops, Part 4 – Entrepreneurs on St Helena
SMALL BUSINESSES WORKING FROM HOME | Sharon Henry
Welcome to the final part in our series of St Helena’s small country shops highlighting the entrepreneurs on St Helena who quietly provide a vital service to the community, many from home premises. Besides shopping services these businesses are also the off-licence, the local grapevine and for some, the casual creditors putting groceries ‘in the book’ until payday. On the face of it these shops may seem ordinary or even old-fashioned, however, they are an intrinsic part of our cultural heritage. Recognising that the world is ever changing and today’s ordinary will be tomorrow’s reminiscence, we’ve been documenting a few of the shops that continue to serve. See links at the end of this post for shops covered in previous posts.
Andy’s, Half Tree Hollow, owners Amelia Gough, Nicky & Simon Andrews, est 1996, originally over the counter, changed to self-service in 2011.
“The shop started in the late 80’s,” recalls Amelia with a wistful look in her eye, “my Dad (Eric ‘Anderson’ Andrews,) used to work on the RMS, bringing grocery items from Cape Town and selling them from our kitchen door. It was all placed on one shelf, paste, tinned goods and it was cheaper than island prices. From there we progressed and moved to a small shop just up from our house and sold groceries.”
“Then my Dad built a shop onto our house, we moved back and have been in operation ever since.
“Over the past year since Basil Read’s (airport) contract has come to an end we can see business has become very competitive. When that project was going things was pretty good, I think everybody was making some money. Now people don’t have as much expendable income anymore and we can see the difference.”
Our Emphasis Is Not To Get Rich
“But, we make enough to keep ourselves afloat. It is quite competitive having a few of the same types of business in Half Tree Hollow. For us we have a credit system which we’ve done for many, many years. Some of the people have been with us for many, many years, it’s amazing, our faithful customers. That helps to keep the business going because that’s guaranteed cash really, we do weekly and monthly accounts so you know that you’ve got that income coming in.
“My daddy was a very kind person, his philosophy was, ‘This is a community shop, our emphasis is not to get rich’ – that was him. My mum was the one who built the business up, she was the backbone when daddy was away on the ship. She was also very kind and very much a people person.
“The main things the shop is here for is a balance, but we do tend to sell a lot of booze and cigarettes. I think we sort of take the main trade for that in HTH. I do knock the prices back a bit to encourage sales. It’s the bigger turnover and it’s got highest value, when you sell say a bottle of booze compared to a tin of baked beans.”
Beautiful Sandy Bay Bananas
“We sell bread, fresh meat from Stevens’ Butchers, any local produce. We have bananas supplied all the time, beautiful Sandy Bay bananas, there very seldom is a time we don’t have any. Beautiful, good quality, bananas.
“We have a staff of four and I have a full time job outside of the shop but come in every afternoon to manage things and to keep abreast of what’s going on within the business. It’s a small shop but quite busy.
“I’m very proud of how we’ve carried on the business after my dad. It belongs to my brothers Nicky, Simon and myself, we work well together and have that family support.
“Now we’re just hoping for the economy to pick up. Salaries and wages are so low and the bills are so high. That’s why I think a lot of people live on credit here, lots of people use credit on St Helena.”
The Anchor Clothing Shop, Kunjie Field
Jean Fowler, open Dec 2009
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” smiles Jean looking around her shop.
“I had one on Ascension Island, when we retired and moved back to St Helena I decided to continue selling clothing and opened a shop here. I started on Ascension in ’94 and opened here in December 2009 into a purposely built shop on the grounds of our home. I sell mostly branded stock, like for shoes; Adidas, Nike, DCs, and they sell very well. As do football boots especially as it’s the start of the football season. We do children’s clothes from newborn up to teens, ladies and men’s clothes, we cater for everybody and have sizes for ladies ranging from 6 up to 30.
“Popular items? My customers really like party dresses, for weddings and special occasions, and 3/4 pants (trousers).”
No Off The Straight And Narrow
“We have jeans but at the moment I won’t get anymore because of the style of men’s jeans. Men here prefer baggy jeans that fall over their waists, showing the tops of the underwear! They are not fans of the straight leg, which at the moment is the style out there (big world), so I’ll have to wait until relaxed jeans come back in.
“We have dress shirts and ties in sets with cufflinks. I would say most people can come in and find something they’d like and will fit.
“The biggest difference between having a shop here to one on Ascension is, Ascension people had more money to spend. Plus on Ascension there was no import duty. So prices here are more expensive because of the additional costs.”
Entrepreneurs on St Helena, Dropping Anchor
“I order all my stock from the UK, I don’t use an agent. I try my best not to order in big quantities, people don’t like walking around and seeing someone wearing the same clothes! But most times it can’t be helped.
“I do have my regulars although we get people from all walks of life which is really nice. Everybody likes the shop, especially the children, and we have little pocket money toys for them to buy whilst the parents browse.
“The ‘Anchor’ name wasn’t my choosing, it was Peter’s (husband). He brought that anchor up to use on his fishing boat but thought it looked too good to use so decided instead to place it outside the shop because he said he’s putting his ‘anchor’ down (retiring). That’s why it’s called the ‘Anchor’.”
Country Shops on St Helena, other articles in series