Community pillar passes on
Over the past 39 years, Centreville Food Market has never closed – with some noteable exceptions.
When a member of the family died some years ago, it shut its doors for half the day. Likewise, after a loyal employees of several decades passed on, the business ceased operations for a few hours out of respect.
But next week, for the first time, Centreville Food Market will close for an entire day to mark the passing of the institution’s founder and general manager, Jerome Major.
“In terms of his honesty and work ethic, it is very hard to find someone like him in this day of age,” said Horace Major, his son and the manager of the supermarket. “It was very much a community store. He was the first to open on a Sunday and on holidays in The Bahamas. His main beef was always offer good, courteous service. They don’t have to shop with you and you must earn business though hard work. Once you treat the customer right, they will come back to you.”
Last Friday, Jerome Major suffered a heart attack in the early morning. His son told Guardian Business that his health “took a turn for the worse and he never recovered”.
Not only did Jerome Major pass on just before the 39th anniversary of the store, but it also marked his 51th wedding anniversary. He was 78 years old.
Explaining that his father was a “pillar of the business community”, he told Guardian Business that he also represented certain ideals that must not be lost. Major opened his first store in the 1960s in Carol Harbor, not far from Lyford Cay. He served many of the homes in the area by supplying them with whatever they needed. He eventually closed down that business, which led him to pursuing his dream of securing enough financing to open a supermarket in centreville.
“Like today, it was very difficult to get financing if they don’t have faith in the project,” his son remembers.
“But he got the advice of his long-time lawyer and he was advised of where to go. They gave him the financing to purchase the building and it opened in 1972.”
That relationship with his lawyer would endure for nearly 40 years.
Horace said his father was very shrewd and always sought a second opinion on everything, even if he was confident on the answer.
Jerome Major also served as a mentor to hundreds of young people and provided jobs for decades. Never shying away from giving advice, he often told people exactly what he thought.
“Most of the kids that grew up around there all worked as packing boys and such. They went on to work in other areas, it was a life-changing experience for them,” Horace said.
“He did mentor a lot of people. He was a no-nonsense guy, not overly serious, but would not sky away and did not turn people away.”
His father motto – if you make a dime, save five cents – was a principle that allowed the business to survive nearly four decades.
Jerome was also a dedicated, hands-on entrepreneur, who was at the store each morning wouldn’t leave until late in the night.
Today, his son told Guardian Business he will continue to carry the torch of Centreville Food Market and take up the post as general manager, leading one of Nassau’s most historical businesses into its fifth decade.
“He was a very practical gentleman and not showy,” Horace said. “I’ll do what I can to continue his legacy.”