Monday, March 7, 2011

Downtown Freeport Gets New Businesses

Freeport, Bahamas – Over 30 new businesses have opened in Freeport’s downtown area from June 2010 through to mid-February. President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) Ian Rolle, describes these figures as encouraging. ‘The success of the Downtown Turnaround Project can be seen in the increase of new businesses in the city centre. The revitalization has brought about a new spirit, which has led to renewed optimism amongst storeowners,” he said.
Rolle further noted that along with the usual retail establishments catering to clothing, hair or footwear, downtown is beginning to attract a new breed of entrepreneurs, including florists, pastry artisans, event planners, lawyers and property management consultants.

“We’re definitely excited at the numbers and the shift in products being offered. GBPA sought to ‘make it happen’ and now business owners are running with their entrepreneurial ideas,” he added.


Freeport, GRAND BAHAMA-The new downtown commercial growth is reminiscent of what has taken place in the International Bazaar since GBPA introduced its one-year business license exemption. Prior to the hurricanes of ’04, ’05, the International Bazaar had 85 businesses in operation. At the end of December 2009, less than 30 businesses were open. Now, with the license fee waiver in effect, new tenants are applying regularly and over 65 businesses are in operation.

New owners in Freeport’s downtown are excited about their own turnaround. Proprietor Denyse Lowe, opened Petal Party Ltd., two days before Christmas and describes sales thus far as phenomenal.

“When we opened, there were no phones, signs on the door, or advertising but we did extremely well through just word-of-mouth and a lot of foot traffic,” she explained.

In fact, it was downtown’s high customer volume that attracted Lowe to her new premises. After considering other commercial areas on the island, she chose to set up two stores in the Seventeen Centre, a location she firmly believes in after enjoying a successful Christmas and Valentines. “For persons considering opening up in the downtown area, I’d tell them not to be afraid. There is a lot of activity, it’s busy and the feel and atmosphere are changing,” she advised

The floral aspect of Petal Party Ltd. has taken off, employing one staff member along with Lowe. Her joint tea house venture is due to open by the end of March, when she plans to employ an additional three persons. Despite the effects of a recession, Lowe said she was not deterred in her entrepreneurial efforts. “People love flowers and are always requesting them for various occasions so we knew there was a niche to be filled. Our floral arrangements and products are different and very appealing and I think if you’re really passionate about something and enjoy what you’re doing, it shows in your work.”

The new business owners are proud to participate in returning downtown to its former commercial glory and a primary venue for other community activities. In commenting on the city’s civic importance, President Rolle stated, “ Research has shown that downtown festivals have and continue to provide the venue for the gathering of people and vibrant expressions of art and culture. As evidenced by the ‘Angels of Hope’ Christmas Concert held in December, business owners and residents are thrilled with the transformation that has taken place downtown and are eager for cultural events and related activities to return to the city’s centre.”

To this end, the Downtown Turnaround Project committee and other governmental and non-governmental agencies have begun initial discussions about planning upcoming activities for the downtown area. “We are excited about the city’s re-development thus far and look forward to increased growth,” Rolle expressed.

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