Regent St vendors ‘switching hustle’ to survive

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By Isanella Patoir

Vendors on Regent Street in Georgetown have found innovative ways to remain an ‘essential service’ so that they can continue to provide for their families while at the same time adhere to the National COVID-19 measures.

The Coronavirus Disease has caused countries in the world to impose restrictions and measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. In Guyana, a number of services are listed as non-essential under the National COVID-19 measures.

Customers lined up outside this store [Photo; June 2, 2020/News Room]
This remains a challenge for businesses that are non-essential especially vendors.

A number of businesses had to close their doors and lay off employees but some amount of vending continues.

Paul Ashby has been selling shoes on Regent Street, Georgetown for the past 30 years. He told the News Room that in order to survive he had to switch from selling shoes to face masks and hand sanitizers.

Paul Ashby [Photo: June 2, 2020/News Room]
“You have to sell sanitizers and them thing to make a dollar now, only essential things…we still have to survive so we have to do a thing,” Ashby said.

Another vendor, Troy Wright who sold clothing on Regent Street for a number of years is also now selling face masks and sanitizers but he said this is not sufficient to support his family. As such, Mr Wright is asking the Government to intervene.

“When I sell my clothes I get a bigger capital but I cannot do that, I have to depend on these masks which is $300, so I need the Government and whoever behind this to have a little caution with the clothes vendor.

“At first the masks were selling a bit fast but now it get slow because a lot of people distributing masks and making masks,” Mr Wright said.

Troy Wright [Photo: June 2, 2020/News Room]
A female vendor, Royda Hatton told the News Room that she is very frustrated with the situation; she said the Police constantly harass her.

“I am a vendor quite some time and I have been toeing the line with the curfew, the time they gave us, I am wearing my mask and using my sanitizer and still every morning the Police coming to take us off the streets, I don’t know where they get the permission from and we don’t know the cause, what is the purpose of the victimization?” the vendor questioned.

As a result of the measures in place for the past three months, some businesses had to let go of some employees while others are rotating staff.

The American Home and Beauty Center for instance has employees on a rotation schedule.

One of the employees, Maleeke Ali explained how the store changed its operation at its Wellington Street location in Georgetown.

Customers being served outside the The American Home and Beauty Center [Photo: June 2, 2020/News Room]
“It’s really difficult in this time business really slow… and we are rotating with what we have. We are trying not to lose our customers, so they now call on the phone or online and they order and they just come and pick up and that’s it,” Ali said.

Maleeke Ali [Photo: June 2, 2020/News Room]
Recently small business owners were encouraged to apply for a relief grant from the Small Business Bureau, however the Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Dr Lowell Porter explained that priority will be given to certain categories of businesses.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry also noted that it will work in collaboration with the Private Sector in Guyana to assist employees and small businesses affected by this health crisis.

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