Small Business Heritage Trail

Ramble curated by: The Heritage Partners & Tracey Thompson

Bahamian business has meant small business, for the most part, and has often meant family business. From barbers to fruit vendors, from dry goods merchants to funeral directors, from lawyers to farmers, from midwives to after-school tutors to shoe cobblers to fishermen, Bahamians across the islands have sought income in order to trade it for something else and so have been involved in doing business. The goods and services that they offered were basic ones rather than luxury ones, usually. They welcomed cash in exchange for their products and their services, but they welcomed barter too. The field of opportunity to enter into business and to stay there profitably was not flat, to be sure. Race mattered. So did social class. So did ethnic roots. Those factors shaped access to capital and with it the size to which a business could grow. The field of opportunity had enclaves as well as slopes: much business activity took place in communities that were isolated from one another geographically or were segregated from one another racially. Any who braved this field faced basic challenges, like transportation and distribution in an archipelagic community. They faced alliances and cartels and monopolies that made it hard for them to hold their own. But in spite of differences in circumstance, what was common to Bahamian businesses of all stripes was an ethos of building one’s community. That meant offering goods and services which people needed. That meant offering wares on “trust”, or credit, to help sustain clients in their moments of need. That meant working collegially rather than ruthlessly with ‘competitors’ in the same industry. That meant making places of business places of meeting, to share community news and test political ideas. That meant giving employment to strangers not because their labour was needed but in order to help them or their families. For decade upon decade, Bahamian business has meant business enterprise for the sake of building one’s community.

Thanks to the The Small Business Development Centre of The Bahamas for their support.

Locations for Ramble

Mr. Havard Samuel Cooper Sr. was born in 1932 in Smith Point, Grand Bahama. He grew up during a time when the Freeport area was underdeveloped. As a way to make money, Mr. Cooper worked as a carpenter, fisherman, lumber and sawmills worker, and a…

Before Sir Asa H. Pritchard was a successful businessman and noted politician, he worked in his father’s dry goods store in Nassau, which opened in 1874. In 1921, he took over his father’s business and started his eponymous food store, building on…

Mortimer Candies has been a landmark in the “Over The Hill” community since 1928. The business was started by Ulric Mortimer, Sr., who first learned to make candies from his mother when he was a child. He was motivated to set up a manufacturing…

The Reef Restaurant, located on University Drive in Oakes Field, New Providence, was established in 1960 by a Canadian couple, the Guys. Upon their departure from The Bahamas in the late 1960s they turned over the ownership of the restaurant to their…

A. Baker & Sons, established in 1894, is known to be one of the oldest surviving businesses in The Bahamas, and may be the oldest store still remaining in its original location on Bay Street. A. Baker and Sons was founded by Mr. Anthony Baker,…