GB residents remain positive about Solomon’s reopening despite delay
President of AML Foods Gavin Watchorn said the opening of AML’s new Solomon’s food store in downtown Freeport has been pushed back because of construction delays due to prolonged shipping and procurement times.
“We are not able to provide the exact date yet, but our expected opening date has been confirmed internally,” he said.
“Assuming no unforeseen delays, Grand Bahamians will experience the new store before the end of 2022.”
The store was set to open by the end of summer.
Downtown Freeport experienced a decline in recent years as hurricanes destroyed various businesses in the commercial area including Solomon’s on Queen’s Highway.
In 2021, AML signed a lease for the old Winn Dixie building after deciding to restore its downtown location.
Watchorn said the aim is to provide a new shopping experience.
“The store is the first of our new neighborhood Solomon’s format,” he said.
“We are pleased to introduce this first in Grand Bahama. There are some new features, but our customers will have to wait until we open to see them.”
Watchorn also expects that the new location will provide job opportunities for past employees.
The new store will be smaller than the old location, but Watchorn promises it will have familiar features such as a café, deli, and ready-made food station.
While the construction continues, downtown workers and commuters are looking forward to the grocery store’s opening.
Ava Clarke, an Eight Mile Rock resident, is relieved and excited as the downtown location will be more accessible for her.
“It’s convenient for a lot of people, especially moms like me who don’t have a car,” she said.
“You can go right there, go on the bus, and head home.”
She said that the presence and design of the store brings life to the scenery of downtown Freeport as many buildings remain dilapidated.
Playtime Sports’ General Manager Ghassan Haddad said the downtown town center was a tourist attraction with numerous activities, businesses and hotels.
He said, “Now you pass by [downtown] and it’s basically empty.”
Haddad expects that the new neighborhood market will begin strengthening the economy and community of the downtown area.
“They will see more foot [traffic] in the downtown area,” Haddad said.
“It’s encouraging for businesses that are no longer in business. It’s encouraging if you’re not in the downtown area. It will make you think of opening a second business in the downtown area.”
Past owner of Jon Wes shoe store, Joseph Thompson, said that interest in the new Solomon’s is widespread.
“They can’t wait for the market to open,” Thompson said.
“Coral Road, East of Coral Road, and the people in the back of town, they will all come here to shop again. They say it will be convenient, a one-stop shopping center.”
John Tyler Forde, current manager of Jon Wes, believes Solomon’s will return downtown to a time when it was bustling.
“It was much more vibrant,” Ford recounts. “There were diverse types of stores out here.”
Forde hopes the crowd brought in by Solomon’s will inspire diverse businesses to move, innovate and restore downtown’s lost magic.