Grand Bahama Minister Ginger Moxey recently told attendees at The Winn ceremony that the revitalization of Downtown Freeport is finally here.
Detractors might be tempted to point to the shuttered Savoy Plaza on Pioneer’s Way and the two rundown apartment buildings on East Mall Drive across from the Harold Randolph DeGregory Building as evidence that revitalization is yet to be accomplished.
Grand Bahamians old enough could even point to the abandoned space next door to the new Solomon’s, which was once occupied by John S. George.
As a Grand Bahamian, Moxey is intimately familiar with the dire situation in the downtown area of Freeport subsequent to the closure of City Market in the old Winn Dixie building.
Since its closure, that area was teetering on the brink of becoming another ghost town like the International Bazaar, with many businesses closing their doors due to the lack of traffic. It is for this reason that Grand Bahamians are elated that Milo B. Butler & Sons Investment Company Ltd has decided to open another Solomon’s Food Store location in Downtown Freeport.
Solomon’s will woo thousands of shoppers to that area on a weekly basis. As a resident of the Island, I am hoping that Solomon’s presence in that area will not harm Sawyer’s Fresh Market on Oak Street and Logwood Road.
I suspect that many of the shoppers from the Back-of-Town, Hudson Estate, Cavalier Beach, North and South Bahamia and Mayfield Park communities who patronize Sawyer’s might defect to Solomon’s.
One of the less talked about ramifications of Freeport’s protracted recession has been the mass relocation of possibly thousands of Grand Bahamians to New Providence and other financially robust Family Islands.
While I am elated about what Solomon’s presence means for Downtown Freeport, it shouldn’t take a Hoover Institute Fellow to figure out the potential ramifications to other competing grocers on Grand Bahama.
With a population of approximately 51,000, the other large grocers will now have to compete with another large grocer.
Another grocer means less shoppers for these rivals.
Moreover, Solomon’s will not necessarily mean new revenue flowing in from abroad, with the exception of tourists shopping there.
In the final analysis, while Moxey has every right to be excited, Grand Bahama really needs two billion dollar plus investments in the tourism sector on the scale of Atlantis Paradise Island, in addition to a new international airport in order to return to its glory days when it was dubbed the Magic City. While I am cautiously optimistic about Solomon’s impact to Downtown Freeport, I am under no delusion that it will revive Grand Bahama’s economy.
— Kevin Evans