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The joy of selling in a market for over 40 years

Veteran vendor, 79, encourages unemployed people to try that option

By RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 05, 2014    

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — At a time when the unemployment rate in Jamaica is high and many are lamenting that jobs may not be available soon, one market vendor is advising some young people to go into buying and selling, as it could help them out of their present challenging economic state.

Mary Francis, 79, said that she helped to cut the ribbon to open the Ocho Rios Market in 1972, and apart from a two-year break, she has been selling in the same market since.

Being a vendor has been the main source of income for the jovial, hard-working and dedicated woman, and today she has no regrets.

With many years of experience and having reaped the rewards of her labour, Francis said that selling in the market can become a means of making a living for many who now beg along the roadway.

"Instead of them walking 'round a beg, why not buy a bag juice and get registered and sell in the market?" Francis said.

"Instead of selling yourself, why not sell in the market ... buy six panty and six brief and sell," she stated.

Having been a vendor in the market for over 40 years, the full-of-energy Francis is quick to recommend that unemployed young people become a part of that business community.

"Mi encourage young people all the time," she said.

Francis explained that she was introduced to the market by a woman from her church and so recognising the benefits, she too tries to push others along a progressive path.

According to Francis, selling in the market remains a viable option in the current harsh economic climate.

"You can make money right in the market, but some rather to live the other life (get involved in illegal activities)," she stated.

She admitted that sometimes business can be slow, but that there are also good days.

She explained that she started out as a small vendor but business grew over the years.

"Mi start with just 'scallion (escallion). Now mi sell everything," she stated.

Francis sells items ranging from foodstuff to utensils, such as pots. She also sells many small household articles.

"I am proud of it," Francis said, describing her job as her pride and joy.

Selling in the market, Francis disclosed, has allowed her to be able to send her six children to school.

"It help me send them to school and build my house and everything," she said.

Pooling with her husband, a construction worker, she was able to own a home, and buy a car, which she still drives.

"Me not licking out against it, it help me a lot," she said.

But it has not always been smooth sailing for Francis.

Over the years she has suffered at the hands of criminals, one of the cries of ordinary Jamaicans who try their hand at things that they believe they can earn from.

"Is five times them hold me up," she said of her experience with robbers.

About three years ago, she and her husband, Lambert Francis, were held up by armed robbers as they returned home after a busy Christmas Eve sale. Her husband was grazed on the face by a bullet in the incident, however the two managed to escape alive. The bullet left a hole in a section of the couple's house, which still remains as a reminder of the horrific experience.

Suffering at the hands of criminals has not stopped Francis, and she continues to love what she does best.

She revealed that drug addicts are often a problem for market vendors. However, apart from that, she is happy with her job.

For Francis it is not just about making money, but making it honestly. She said that she has never tried to cheat the customer, which includes tourists who sometimes visit the market.

"If a 10 cent it cost, I do not sell the tourist for 20," the member of the Ocho Rios Baptist stated.

Although not as strong as before, Francis will continue to carry out her job with a passion until it is time for her to go home.

Mary Francis

FRANCIS ... you can make money right in the market.

Mary Francis items 2

The veteran vendor shows off some of her wares.

Mary Francis items 1

Roots, herbs and spices are among the variety if items that Francis sells.

Mary Francis items 3, 4

More of what Francis offers to her customers

Francis serves a customer

(Caption the same)

(PHOTOS: RENAE DIXON)

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