South Caicos: the small commercial town

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South Caicos is both an island and a city. It has always operated with a certain independence and has been seen as less strict and having a freer and more relaxed environment than many of our other sister islands. He is also known for his fair play and respect for law and order.

These characteristics place South Caicos in the category of cities where small businesses thrive. In fact, the island has flourished over the years thanks to the activities of small businesses and their impact on society and the economy.

For example, in terms of fairly large companies, South Caicos was early on at the forefront of the first truly successful hotel, the Admiral’s Arm Hotel. It employed many local people in various positions and attracted many tourists from North America and other countries. It was also a popular place where people gathered for various social occasions. And of course, other small businesses have emerged from this venture.

At present there are two large modern hotels, one owned by a local businessman. All are doing well and are attracting hospitality workers from abroad, as well as locally.

And it was, until recently, the first and only island to have established factories processing marine products for export. At first, business was booming so much that a shift system for workers had to be introduced.

These companies provided wages to workers who were able to “put food on the table” for their families, and even made extensions to their homes, or built new ones. Many were able to open traditional bank accounts, which provided protection for their savings.

Traditionally, there were many local businesses involving families and individuals. These were involved in dry goods and groceries, meeting the needs of the majority of local customers. Some of these small business owners and operators can sometimes have a certain attitude. If sometimes certain items in the market were rare and people who did not frequent the business on a regular basis came to these businesses to buy these rare goods, they would be quickly turned down and informed that it was for the benefit of their regular customers. . people.

Some small businesses in South Caicos often specialized in products that interested their buyers. We see some specializing in fruits and vegetables, others in groceries, and some offering catering services in a less formal environment, such as selling homemade sandwiches, individual pieces of chicken, or a mixture of chicken wings, thighs and breasts.

These small business services have become more sophisticated over time, due to the influence of hospitality practices from abroad. But there are still the old-timers who prefer open service over tissue paper or other plastic containers, or boxes they can easily take to their vehicles, sit back, relax, and snack on whatever they bought.

Some traditional patrons, known intimately, sometimes took their chicken outside and sat on the adjoining wall nearby, or just outside the “chicken shack”. It made them feel more at home. This was even the practice of patrons who frequented local bars.

Sometimes the noise seemed greater than the expense.

At some of the Mom and Pop stores in South Caicos where people knew each other closely, you can still credit goods and other items and refund owners at more convenient times.

These small mom and pop businesses were a lifeline for families that allowed them to replenish their supplies between payments. If some were unable to repay on time, a compassionate business owner would understand their situation and give them a grace period.

Another form of trade took place where sailors from other home islands came to South Caicos to sell their lobsters, conch, and fish, and even agricultural produce from their farms. Many small businesses on the island engaged in this economic activity and were also able to hire additional workers who received income from this exchange.

The same thing happened with Haitian boats bringing fruits and vegetables and selling them to small local businesses. It is because of the capital circulating in South Caicos, the entrepreneurial spirit of the people, the support and openness of local government, and a favorable political climate that has attracted small businesses that South Caicos has become the city ​​where small businesses could thrive.

Specifically, small businesses became associated with big local names such as Malcolm, Saunders, Mills, Ewing, Simmons, Hanchell, Ma-Curlie with his ice cream parlor, as well as later Pastel Eaters, and others. Their goods were always available and met the needs of the population.
Additionally, the character and politeness of these business owners contributed to positive owner-customer relationships, which further enriched the corporate culture, so that South Caicos was seen as a city where good business was clean. were encouraged and conducted for mutual benefit. entrepreneurs and their customers.

Dr. Carlton Mills and Debby-Lee V. Mills (Masters in Educational Leadership), in a recently published book entitled: “The Turks and Caicos Islands: Our Heritage, Our History”, in a particular chapter discusses the past and present TCI industries, including South Caicos. These include guano mining, sisal, ranching, sponging, whaling, shark, turtle farming, marine products and industries. tourism and hospitality.

Some of these establishments were more sophisticated than others and could be described as mid-level businesses, while hotels were at a different level. But they have all contributed to the development and expansion of business as an important factor in the life of South Caicos and TCI.
And the social and entrepreneurial climate that exists in South Caicos as a city has made this variety of small businesses possible.

*Oliver Mills is a former Lecturer in Education at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. He holds a Masters in Education from Dalhousie University in Canada, a Masters from the University of London and a Postgraduate Diploma in HRM and Training from the University of Leicester. He is a former Permanent Secretary for Education in the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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