Inside a Dominican Shop - Headed to  Extinction? 

Garraway Hotel Dominica - Dominican Owned and Operated

Jungle Bay, Dominica - Dominican Owned and Operated

In a message dated 4/18/2011 10:04:21 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
Gabrielchn writes:

The Shop as an Element of Economic Vitality & Cultural Tourism
On the Commonwealth of Dominica


Gabriel J. Christian

As Ma Bazelique raised the beaked vegetable oil dispenser several inches
over the funnel which fed into the empty whiskey bottle and poured, the sun’
s rays filtering through a crack in the window behind her glanced off the
viscous, golden strand of oil, where it hung lazily between the two

Julian’s Shop,
At Page 180
In Gabriel J. Christian’s “Rain on a Tin Roof.” 1999

In 2006 the economic and socio-cultural landscape of the Commonwealth of
Dominica is coming under assault as never before. With the advent of
globalized world trade and the coming into being of the Caribbean Single Market
Economy (CSME), local Dominicans face economic and cultural
marginalization. Local television, the conduit for most information is dominated by
mainland US programming to the disservice of local cultural content or
information. The entry of a business class from Asia which has deep roots in that
region’s economic dynamism, threatens to eclipse the role of the local
shopkeeper or entrepreneur. The social dislocation wrought by economic
marginalization and cultural imperialism manifests itself in a burgeoning prison
population, juvenile delinquency, a surge in burglaries, gang violence and
drug abuse. But Dominicans need not accept defeat and the demise of our
nation-state, where we seize upon cultural strengths and maximize them.
To that end, what are our strengths?
· A healthy and literate population
· A world class cultural dynamism and productivity
· An indigenous commercial class
· An international network of Dominican Diaspora organizations
If we can unite those strengths with a focus on making the village or
urban shop a hub of economic and cultural activities, then we can:
· Sustain economic development in our fragile rural communities
· Reverse crowding in urban areas
· Build tourist attractions where none existed prior
· Link the local shop to the Dominican Diaspora for ideas,
resources and marketing
· Enhance employment and local industry
The Village Shop in Dominican History

Prior to Columbus the historical record on our indigenous Karifuna people
is scant., Suffice it to say, that as hunter gatherers or subsistence
farmers they grew what they ate; and exchanged goods as necessity dictated
without the framework of a money economy, as we came to know it in the period
of colonialism,. With the settlement by Europeans and kidnapped Africans
who were pressed into plantation labor, things changed. Most plantations
provided clothing and food for the enslaved Africans. Later, with the
benefit of their small gardens the African population engaged in trading produce
for services, to include the free exchange of labor among themselves;
referred to as Koudmen; or cooperative effort.
With the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies in 1834, a free
colored elite developed in Dominica which engaged in commerce and shop
keeping. Into the earlier part the 20th century, names such as J.B. Charles,
Garraway, C.G. Phillip, Ayoub Dib, Elias Nassief, Lennard Green, Ernst
Andre, Robert B. Douglas, became famous as shop keepers or store owners. In the
post World War II period, many Dominicans who had traveled to Cayenne,
Curacao, or the US Virgin Islands established shops in their home villages,
Portsmouth and Roseau. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Tommy, Madge, Pappy,
United Brothers, Hayden, Sukie, Flossie, J.C.’s, Ken Robinson, and
Annette St. Hilaire, all became household names of local shopkeepers or groups.
The hucksters, itinerant traders/shopkeepers, also played a part in selling
produce to regional markets and selling consumer goods on their return.
The bigger supermarkets, such as Astaphan, Whitchurch were run by families
which had, over time, become well regarded fixtures of the local fabric. The
local shop network was critical to capital accumulation and managerial
skill by locals, especially in the post war period. That capital accumulation
made for a more democratic society, less riven to the social discord born
of huge gaps between rich and poor. More importantly, monies earned by the
indigenous business was recycled into the local economy, via schools fees
paid, goods bought, buildings built, further investments made and employees
who earned incomes. further, the psychic benefit of a recently colonized
people mastering commerce cannot be underestimated in that dispensation. In
essence, locals could see themselves at the center of economic activity -
and rulers within their own national domain, not simply hewers of wood and
carriers of water.
The 1961 ascendancy of Chief Minister Edward Leblanc and the Labour Party
was a nationalist and social justice movement. It provided the enabling
empowerment for locals to empower themselves via education and provided
feeders roads to spur agriculture production in hitherto marginal lands in
Dominica's misty heights, and made lands available to those who did not own it.
So empowered, locals now had more buying power to patronize neighborhood
shops. The advent of the Labour Party therefore further strengthened that
turn toward more local ownership of the means of production. It is must be
noted that such ownership gave pride of place to locals and ensured that
dignity which accrues with having a stake in the economic lifeblood of the
community. Any society where the majority feels disenfranchised is risking
societal upheaval and disorder. It is therefore simply economic common-sense
to maximize and revive the small shop keeper class and see its revival as
a bulwark against societal dislocation and the proliferation of criminal
behavior. And even where e-commerce and grand shopping malls make the
traditional small shop keeper a dinosaur, means must be found to ensure that
locals do not merely become an economically disenfranchised servant class. We
cannot merely sit back and be spectators to our fate. Successful economies
and societies benefit from planning, organization and innovative steps born
of noble vision. It is indeed a truism, that where there is no vision the
people perish.
The Shop as Cultural Storefront:
The challenge of cruise ship tourism is to ensure that some foreign
exchange is earned from the process, and that locals are not simply on display
for the amateur tourist photographers. That means crafting a new focus for
the shop as a purveyor of local products beyond bread and salt fish. This
would be the profile of the new shop, as exponent of cultural tourism and
economic vitality:
· Tastefully decorated interiors and exteriors, which expound on a
Karifuna, African and a Creole Caribbean mix;
· Tastefully attired shop keepers who may sell samples of their
custom clothing as souvenirs;
· Local spiced rum drinks (passion, ginger, grapefruit, etc.)
bearing the colorful labels of the particular shops.
· Postcards, key rings, books, local CDs, paintings, posters,
t-shirts and unique gifts featuring that shop and/or village;
· Quick Bite counters where the visitor may have a meal
spotlighting the culinary delights of that shop (pelau, bouden etc.; sankosh etc.)
· A soft musical background emitting from the shop to entice the
· DVDs on unique elements of Dominican life.
· Internet connectivity
· A game room where locals and visitors can interact
· A few stools or lounge stairs where a visitor could rest for a
· Using the Disney opening provided by Pirates of the Caribbean
2006, Pirate wear as in linen blouses and shirts could be made popular sales
items: Pirate Wear Dominique? Local culture: Wob Dwiyets for kids and
adults; Or Jaco’s Sandals? A Karifuna skirt? - All with a bit of historical
rendition to accompany the item, in booklet form.
How do we achieve this?
The Prime Minister’s office and cabinet, Rotary Club, Dominica Association
of Industry and Commerce, National Development Corporation, local artists,
writers, and councils, the Dominica Academy of Arts & Sciences, the
National Bank and our credit unions would have to be convened and a commission
directed to formulate a plan in thirty (30) days to set-up the first half
dozen model shops in selected areas. These shops would be listed on our
national cultural heritage register. Financing and design assistance would have
to be given. Training in marketing and customer service would be a must.
The whole village or community would have to be convened to make this work, as
it would have to be a team effort. It must be stressed that the success
of this program would benefit the whole society, not merely the
The Impact
If linked to the Diaspora, marketed well to tourists and others, that
revival of our shops as hubs for cultural tourism would do well in promoting
our cuisine, music, art work, literature, and overall economic interests. The
Diaspora Dominican can be the link for new ideas and resources to boost
this concept. The Diasporan is also a potential purchaser and/or marketer
for the items that would flow from the industry. More importantly, the new
Chinese business class can be the link for technical exchange where they
produce items for Dominican shops under license (or brand names) or the shop
keepers travel to China on trade missions to learn that which they can
apply to productive processes in Dominica.
Local industry, village life, a sense of a Dominican community, farming,
fisheries, all will be positively benefited by this renaissance. The links
to all facets of the community will spur the spirit of enterprise and ensure
that the young can grasp that the future is bright, where they engage
their talents as noted above. The image of young men sitting idle, while the
world passes them by, would become a thing of the past, as they busy
themselves in these new ventures. If we do not do it, others will; so we must
If this effort is seen as the opportunity it presents, then we will have
nothing to fear from globalization, as we would be confident into our
cultural resilience and our ability to overcome. All we have to do is assert
our sense of cultural virtue and work, collectively to revive the local shop
as a vibrant element in our community, in a manner never before seen. The
effort would be sustainable as its only limit would be that which we impose
on our native intelligence. The economic benefit would be felt at all
levels of society, and so diminish social stratification and inter-ethnic
hostility which now loom ominously in so many Caribbean societies.

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