Tradition of hats and sweet treats
As a little girl growing up, Elizabeth Reece would watch her mother make straw hats to sell.
But little did she know that one day she would be plying the same trade.
Reece, 59, said it was in the early 1990s that she decided she would sell the brimmed hats. But she started out buying them from vendors in Suttle Street to sell “to people who were working in the sun cutting canes and doing masonry”. She said there was a downturn in sales at that time.
“I told myself you know something, my mother used to make these hats. I think it is cheaper if I get the material and make the hat. So I got the material, got on the machine to make the hats but I could not get it done,” said Reece, with a smile.
“So I had to go back to my mother and ask her to show me how to make the hats and within minutes she did one hat and I catch on and then I started making the hats.
“As a young girl I used to watch her make the hats but I never thought I would make them one day too. But knowing it was sort of my responsibility now, I just watch and see how it is done,” she told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
Since then, Reece has been making hats and bags out of straw and selling them. She said in the late 1990s she tried to get one of the shops in the Pelican Village to set up her craft business but that was unsuccessful.
So she opened her own little business – The Hat Shop, located at the entrance to the gap at 1st Avenue Water Hall Lane in Tudor Bridge, St Michael, where she would sell the intricately woven and stitched items, snacks and a variety of other products.
Reece had become so good at making the head gear that she was able to supply Cave Shepherd. But, she said, “one time they said they were getting some from overseas” so they stopped purchasing hers.
“One time they used to sell good but things just gone down. It just went down,” she said.
Reece also boasts making a number of fashionable items for the popular Betty West Kadooment band “around 2004 or 2005”.
“That band used some broad hats. I made those hats,” she recalled excitedly.
“Once there is a demand for it, I would not mind carrying on this trade,” said Reece, when asked if it was a tradition she planned to keep alive.
The Grenadian-born said she also learnt the art of making sweet treats that continued to be enjoyed by many locals and tourists.
“My mother was running a variety shop and she used to sell the sugar cakes; this is not a Bajan sugar cake, this is a Grenadian sugar cake. She was selling the tamarind balls and [coconut] drops too. So I get it from her. That was about in the 1970s. We used to live upstairs and the shop downstairs,” she remembered.
“The people like the sugar cake a lot because it has in ginger and they like the flavour of the ginger. Bajans like the sugar cake, and it is the adults. You [would] think the little children would buy it, [but] it is adults. Some would come to get it to send overseas,” she explained.
Reece said over the years, however, sales in the hats, bags, sugar cakes, tamarind balls and coconut drops had fallen and she was not sure they would be picking back up anytime soon.