ATL'S golden gifts to Jamaica

Jean
Lowrie-Chin

Monday, June 18, 2018

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We were part of the happy buzz, last Tuesday, when hundreds converged on Hope Gardens to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Appliance Traders Group. The Gordon “Butch” Stewart organisation's ascent from a fledging supplier of air conditioning units in 1968 to the creation of the world-renowned Sandals brand reminds fellow Jamaicans of our unlimited possibilities.

R Danny Williams, in a video presentation at the event, recalled that the parents of young Butch complained that their son was more interested in fishing and selling his catch to north coast hotels than in his studies. The prophetic Danny Williams assured them that his talent for marketing would stand him in good stead. Little did Danny Williams dream that this salesmanship would have sky rocketed Butch Stewart to the pinnacle of the tourism world. Long before branding became a buzzword, Stewart understood its power. When he was finally able to afford a Mercedes Benz — gained from his success with the sale of Fedders air conditioners in Jamaica — he emblazoned the Fedders logo on the doors of his Benz. He told his critics that Fedders enabled him to buy his Benz and so he was proud to promote it. ATL branding was big and bold on his ubiquitous fleet, making unfamiliar names like Hoshizaki a part of our lexicon.

In 2008, on the 40th anniversary of ATL, this column celebrated Stewart's achievements. We noted that in his book All That's Good, we could see the synergy of the three basic Christian principles of faith, hope and love. Only a person of faith would have invested in the run-down Bay Roc Hotel in 1981, rapidly rolling out a gold-standard hotel chain that would cop the most coveted international tourism awards.

Hope: The classy, meticulous Betty Jo Desnoes remembers the devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 to the three Sandals properties in Montego Bay, as well as two others being built in Ocho Rios and Negril. She said on hearing the news, “Mr Stewart...began galvanising. He dispatched every truck he had and bought up every piece of lumber and nails.” Hailed by travel writers as “a miracle”, the resorts were rebuilt and reopened three months after Gilbert in time for the beginning of the 1988/89 winter tourist season.

Love: Butch Stewart's fatherly love for his team was reflected in the many tributes featured in the 50th anniversary video from his long-serving employees. He is probably the only boss that calls man and woman alike “darling” — and it sounds perfectly natural! They spoke of his concern for their family members and his keen interest in their professional development.

The ATL/Sandals/Jamaica Observer/ATL Automotive teams reflect our national motto: “Out of Many One People.” It is disturbing to hear the unjust accusations levelled at the hotel chain regarding its choice of entertainment, when the only artistes I have ever enjoyed in my many years visiting Sandals are local or Caribbean.

Some criticisms descended into downright racist remarks. We have to be very careful that we do not develop a one-sided view of racism. Racism is the act of pre-judging people based on their ethnic origin — whether African, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern or European. While everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, it is never alright to be racist. We see hurtful comments flying about on social media, and a friend of European roots, who was subject to this, said she dared not respond as she risked being torn to bits. This is unacceptable, and we in Jamaica, who are miles ahead of other countries in respect of racial harmony, should protect and nurture this important aspect of our country.

Indeed the Stewart family has been exemplary. The children, who were not allowed to rest on their parents' laurels, had to forge their own paths to success. The eldest, Brian Jardim, has made giant steps with his Caribbean-wide business, Rainforest Seafoods, a company which contributes extensively to education and housing for the poor. Adam Stewart has earned his place as CEO of the Sandals Group and ATL Automotive, introducing their award-winning, eco-friendly practices to their properties, and launching the philanthropic Sandals Foundation. Daughter, Jaime Stewart-McConnell is driving the Orijin line of natural juices as well as other innovative endeavours.

The fireworks finale was a fitting metaphor for the star-powered ATL Group, the largest private sector company in the Caribbean. Congratulations to Butch Stewart, dedicated veterans, and the entire ATL team. May you celebrate many more milestones in the years to come.

Powerful performances

The Powerful Women & Men in Concert event held last Sunday to raise funds for Mustard Seed Communities was probably one of the best organised of the series; packing laughter, music and fashion into a fast three hours. Highlights of the star-studded evening were stand-up performances by the inimitable Dr Blossom O'Meally Nelson, Dr Michael Abrahams, Cordel Green, and Spain Deputy Head of Mission Carmen Rives' rendition of the poetry of Gloria Fuentes in Jamaican language.

Allie McNab and Carlene Davis wowed us with their rendition of Hallelujah, while the first responders Rosemarie Lee of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Private Jason Brown of the Jamaica Defence Force had us swooning with I Pray. 'The Poignant Sisters', Ashe, National Dance Theatre Company, Professor Sonjah Stanley Niaah, and Darcy Tulloch gave dynamic performances. The fashion show was fun with Member of Parliament Juliet Holness giving an extra turn on the stage, much to the delight of the audience.

Kudos to Mustard Seed's Fund-raising Chair Thyra Heaven, Executive Producer Cordel Green, MCs Christopher “Johnny” Daley and Rochelle Cameron, publicist Carmen Patterson, dynamos Fay Pickersgill, Patricia Duncan Sutherland, Karen Moody, Kira Pickersgill, Weston Haughton and the many other volunteers. Nothing is too good for Mustard Seed Communities, led by Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon. The organisation, which serves over 500 youth and adults, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

'Four diamonds'

The Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel scored the prestigious Four Diamond Award from the AAA (formerly American Automobile Association). Describing this as “the coveted AAA/CAA Four Diamond Rating”, the presenters noted, “Only approximately six per cent of all diamond-rated hotels reach the Four Diamond level. This is indeed a reason celebrate!”

Emcee Christelle Harris, granddaughter of the evergreen Managing Director Ruth Hussey, lauded the long-serving members of staff, in particular Maitre'D Frank Gilmore who started at Terra Nova in 1966 and returned in 2001.

Our hard-working Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett gave high commendations, much to the delight of the awardees. Great going Terra Nova!

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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