Faith’s Pen vendors suffering since opening of new highway

Losing ‘Faith’

BY JAVENE SKYERS Observer staff reporter

Sunday, April 10, 2016

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The opening of the north-south highway earlier this year was met with positive Jamaicans, however, vendors at the Faith’s Pen Rest Stop are complaining that the new highway has severely hampered their livelihood.


The rest stop, which is located on the road between Mount Rosser, St Catherine, and Moneague, St Ann, has been a popular stop for years with motorists. However, the majority of the vendors’ faithful customers are now opting to use the highway, which cuts travel time and allows motorists to bypass the dreaded Bog Walk Gorge.


When the Jamaica observerNorth & East team visited the Rest Stop last week, only three of the 30 active stalls were open for business, a stark contrast to the usually busy atmosphere at the food stop.


"We lose 100 per cent of we business from the toll road come.We nuh hav nuh money, it dun, it gone. What we doing is not even hand to mouth, it can’t pay bill," the owner of Cherry’s Rest Stop stated bitterly.


She highlighted that it was an especially big blow to her as she has two children to look after since her son and the children’s father were killed by gunmen and their mother abandoned them.


The vendor said while the highway was the main cause for their business woes, there were other factors that contributed to the gradual decline of the rest stop.


"The toll road a one a di main cause, but the other causes are some people who do business here would come out running into people vehicle and all those things - that is not right. You can’t do business and people running into people vehicle like that, and some of the customers not even realise that that’s not how you buy food here," Cherry explained.


She maintained that price of the food offerings was never a problem, as she would willingly adjust her prices to fit the pockets of her buyers.


"Some people have money. Suppose a person come and you say yu selling your ackee and saltfish fi $500 and dem don’t have it, yu say give me $400 and another will come and give you di $500. When other persons will come and say ‘I only have $300 dollars enu can I get something for this’ I say, ‘Yes, sure you can get it’," the food vendor explained.


She also lamented that she was forced to bring home her larger pots as there is hardly anyone left who will come and purchase the food.


This was the same cry echoed by another vendor, Owen Thomas.


"One a di time we would a come and put on five chicken inna di morning and by inna di evening we even haffi end up put on two more. Sometime now yu put on all two chicken in di morning and in di evening yu still end up wid one and half or one same way," Thomas, who is the owner of Food for All rest stop stated.


The food vendor, who has been in the business for 35 years, stated that his business has decreased by more than 90 per cent and that he spends without making a profit.


"Might as well me pack up cause me lose more than weh me gain.So for instance ,me spend $2,000 in di business and out a da $2,000 me get $1,200 or $1,000 - so me nuh mek a profit," the vendor stated.


"It’s just hand to mouth, is a good thing mi nuh hav nuh likkle pickney a go a school right now, two a dem a work ya now and dem will help me pay me bills, but if it was dis alone to pay my bills, me woulda run in bankruptcy long time, me nuh know how it woulda work out," Thomas continued.


Before the highway, the owner said the vendors would make up to $30,000 a day, especially during holidays, but now they are lucky if they even make it home with $500 in their pockets.


"People stop but the people weh fi really spend di money-di good customers-a tek di highway. Most a di female drivers dem, dem fraid a di trailer dem on Mount Rosser road so dem tek di highway so a mostly trucks pass and truck man naa stop. Di poorer class a people dem a pass and dem cyaah afford it, but when dem come dem will spend a little thing enu, but nuh much," the proprietor stated.


When asked why he did not seek to do something else, the vendor said he was too old and he doubts anywhere would hire him now, so he is forced to stay and continue operating.


It is a similar situation for Cherry, who stated that, majority of the other vendors are now doing domestic work to make ends meet but it is not a path she is willing to travel. According to the vendor, who has been at the Faith’s Pen Rest Stop, 20 out of the 40 years she has been a vendor, "A God a carry me."


In the case of Thomas, he is hoping he will be able to get one of the 15 stalls to be opened at a rest stop located on the new highway.


"It’s not a relocation-me know yu haffi pay light bill, water bill and yu haffi pay rent in advance and all a dat, so is a good money fi start up dat again If me get di chance, me woulda do it. Di people weh fi get di money dem naa come ya," Thomas said.

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