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Talk of the town

BARRY ALLEYNE, [email protected]

Talk of the town

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Don’t call it comeback. It’s been there for years.

Speightstown, the island’s most northerly business hub, has had its share of ups and downs over the last two decades, but with a renewed investment in business along the Queen Street area and further north to the recently opened Nikki Beach Barbados, there is a certain hustle and flow.

Just one trip to the quaint little area is all it takes to notice the resurgence.

Foot traffic has improved, customer interaction with vendors has increased notably, more prospective buyers are browsing through stores and boutiques, and, more importantly, business in the tourism sector has almost quadrupled, with at least five new properties opening their doors in the last 24 months.

Lobster Pot, The Beach Shack, Nino’s by the Sea, Hugo’s Restaurant, and Nikki Beach Barbados have all taken a risk not many were willing to put down money on, and it seems to be paying early dividends. Beaches by Sandals will be just around the corner.

Mark Daghorn, a 50-year-old businessman from the island of Jersey just off England’s southern coast, has taken the lead, first opening Juma’s and the Lobster Pot and attracting one of the country’s premier executive chefs, Gregory Austin, to draw customers back to Speightstown.

It worked so well, Daghorn followed that up by opening Nino’s by the Sea and The Beach Shack, which have all seen significant increases in business since the middle of last year.

Daghorn told the Sunday Sun between taking phone calls from customers.

“It was kind of slow to start, but we stuck with it. And by the second year we started to see the results.” “Complimentary loungers and beach chairs started to get the beach busy, and people started to come. Before that, the fantastic stretch of beach in Speightstown had been empty.”

General manager of the freshly opened Hugo’s Restaurant, Brian Tatum, revealed the business’ owners, British couple Andy and Judy Stewart, spent more than $5 million on the upscale property because they strongly believed Speightstown could hold its own not just like a tourist attraction, but a viable Barbadian business community.

“It took us three years to get where we are and to open on December 22. We expect this area to become like another west coast of Barbados,” Tatum explained.

“You can see more and more businesses are starting to pop up all through Speightstown already,” he added.

For Tatum, failure is not an option.

“I think we have a good product, and I believe we have good prices. Our pricing in particular is spot on, because we don’t think it is very high-end. We are catering for people who want to come back all the time.”

Hugo’s is located in a refurbished building, the last one along Speightstown, and one of the few to have to views over the Caribbean Sea.

“People look north and see the sea and the Speightstown Esplanade, and look west and see the sea. The view is spot on and that is what people come to Barbados for,” Tatum added.

The business opened just three days before Christmas, and already is making waves.

About half a kilometre away from Speightstown, work is set to begin next month on the island’s third Sandals-operated property.

Beaches, which is expected to provide the little town with an even larger influx of business opportunities.

Sandals’ public relations manager David Hinds explained that US$300 million will be spent to make the 550-room resort project a reality.

The project is expected to create close to 1 000 jobs during the construction phase and another 700 plus when hiring staff. “We have already garnered approval to start on beach rehabilitation work for the resort which will make the beach even more beautiful for residents and the entire beach loving public of Barbados,” Hinds stated.

Nikki Beach Barbados, also walking distance from Speightstown proper, opened its doors to much hype recently.

The Sunday Sun reached out to the restaurant’s general manager Michael Clark for comments but was unable to get any up to Press time. (BA)