Making a go of it
JAMAICANS are known for their ability to make “something out of nothing” and a few carpenters and upholsterers in downtown Kingston have been doing just that.
A stroll along Orange and Harbour streets will reveal a line of beds, pillows, sofas, and cushions on sale by these individuals.
Basil Stewart, 62, has been operating his small upholstering business from an abandoned building on Harbour Street for the past two years.
Outfitted with sewing machines and air pumps, Stewart has transformed a section of the burnt-out, musty building into his workspace, which he shares with six other individuals.
“Everybody controls their own customers. We just try to make a living from where we are,” he said.
But things are about to change.
“The owners have given us notice to move by the end of this month,” Stewart said. They have been allowed to use the property for “a fee”.
Though “the living is not very good”, Stewart says he has been trying to construct a workshop some distance away in light of his inevitable eviction from the property.
“Business is slow now, people really just buying backto- school stuff. Christmas is a faster time for us”, he said.
Devon Smile, 33, admonishes youngsters who do not seek to learn a trade, noting that his own small business — which he has operated for 15 years — has fed and schooled his three children.
He attributes the longevity of his operation to his “businesslike and positive attitude” toward his customers.
“I get here by 9 am like I’m coming to work and give my customers quality service,” he said, adding that he also does repairs as needed on the items he sells.
“Everyday is not going to be your lucky day, today you may get a sale but tomorrow it may be the other man down there.”
“You can always give out your (phone) number and with discipline and keeping your composure, you can do good business,” he said.
The vendors say most of their products are bought by customers who observe the items and come over to investigate.
They don’t quite dismiss the notion of selling to store owners, but they gain greater profits by direct sales. “Stores want to just pay you a small fee when they are making big profits on what we sell to them,” Smile said.
The average cost of a double bed with mattress ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 with pillows averaging $600.
The prices vary depending on whether the mattress is foam-based or spring-based, he said.