By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
and NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Around 50 Bahamian jobs are set to be impacted as a well-known food retailer looks to either relocate its sole New Providence store or close it altogether, less than a year after it opened.
Informed retail industry sources had suggested to Tribune Business that the Sawyer’s Fresh Market store on Nassau Village’s Taylor Street could close as early as the end of July, although this newspaper was yesterday told the situation was not so clear-cut.
Rather than closure, Sawyer’s Fresh Market is seeking an alternative New Providence store as it also bids to expand on Grand Bahama via the opening of a second store in Eight Mile Rock.
Sources familiar with developments suggested that its current site, in the old Saveco building, was not attractive to customers because Nassau Village was perceived as a ‘high crime area’ where few outsiders dared to tread.
“They’re trying to find a location here in Nassau and open a new store in Grand Bahama,” a source told Tribune Business.
“With the Nassau Village store it’s basically geography. Being in an area where there is a gang war has customers concerned. They call in and say they love the store, but the location is an issue.”
Another retail industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The store is half-empty. He’s moved out half his equipment and brought it back to Freeport, as they’re opening up in Eight Mile Rock.
“There’s no money in Nassau Village, and no one with money is going into Nassau Village.”
Kevin Sheffield, a manager and partner in Sawyer’s Fresh Market, effectively confirmed this situation, although he said no decision was set or finalised yet.
“Right now we’re still in deliberations,” he said, declining to comment further.
It is unclear how Sawyer’s Fresh Market’s Nassau staff, said to number around 50, will be impacted by any move. A smaller site than the current one is likely to mean fewer bodies, although the retailer is likely to want to keep its existing format and seek a sizeable location.
Sawyer’s Fresh Market, headed by businessman Sandy Sawyer, broke into the Nassau food retail landscape late last year.
Neither Mr Sawyer nor his marketing co-ordinator, Tish Capron, returned numerous Tribune Business calls seeking comment yesterday. This newspaper was either told they were out of office or in meetings.
The Nassau Village store last year hosted two job fairs, which saw massive turnouts for 100 or so available positions.
At the time, Tribune Business reported that after Saveco closed its doors the = owner engaged a real estate firm to market the Taylor Street property to potential buyers. No deal was said to have been forthcoming, hence the lease tie-up with Sawyer’s Fresh Market.
Other food retailers were understood to have shied away from the Saveco building, having been put off by its location in Nassau Village and the area’s reputation as a ‘high crime’ spot - something unlikely to attract shoppers from other population centres, especially in the evening hours.
“It’s too big of a building for the location, and it’s the wrong location,” one competitor told Tribune Business previously.
Mr Sawyer and his Fresh Market concept had been looking to expand for some time, Tribune Business having previously revealed that they attempted to take over the former City Markets Eight Mile Rick store in 2010 when the latter chain was still owned by the BSL Holdings majority shareholder.
This newspaper was subsequently told that Sawyer’s Fresh Market at one point looked at taking over leasehold interests in all three City Markets’ Grand Bahama locations, including Lucaya and downtown Freeport, but ultimately was unable to pull the deal-off.