Nowadays, the shelves that fill the space on the street corner of Robb & Camp that houses the Guyana Store, administered by the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), have taken on a less appealing image than it has been up to a few months ago. . Places where sauces, spices, wines and a variety of tamarind balls and other erasable ingredients were now less crowded. A few months earlier the Store manager had told the Stabroek Business that its changing appearance had been a function of mutual understanding between the GMC and agro-processors that the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated decline in case sales over withdrawal on the shelving stocking. In the coming weeks, we were to learn from the owners of those brands that stocked the shelves that really happened and that the loss of that outlet was the main reason why their businesses were either imminent or gone completely ‘under’.
Ironically, as far as these smart small businesses were considered, the Guyana Store was not to blame for their circumstance. They seemed to accept, with what we saw was a wonderful sense of stockism, that it was. Where there were no buyers, they had no role other than continuing to search for light at the end of the tunnel. Oddly enough, in a society where state-run institutions are generally considered inefficient, the sellers spoke well about how Guyana’s Store served as an outlet for their products . Many, they said, wished there could be some form of upgrading of the facility, in a way that was up to modern food outlet standards although very few felt it would ever happen. Here, the general attitude was that the government tended to do things in a more or less unruly manner as if it had cut its teeth on mediocrity.
People visited the Guyana Store for various reasons. For some, it was a matter of being home on vacation and being directed to a shop where you could get local food products to go back to the USA, or Canada, or wherever. Then there were the wine lovers who seemed to have become ‘hooked’ at the surprisingly high quality of the various fruit wines that someone felt could hold their own on the shelves of the largest supermarket shopping centers in the metropolis. Some visited for slightly more common reasons, such as just picking up a few packets of tamarind balls. Whatever the reason, the Guyana Store seemed to have developed a reputation and aura of its own and stood out as a state-run facility that was not immersed in ‘red tape,’ commonality , and a collection of outright absurd protocols that made people avoid them like the proverbial plague.
The downside though … was the fact that it hadn’t happened to whatever government department the Guyana Store comes under that commercial outlets of that kind, over time, took a quantum leap and that the Bountys, the Massys, Mattais et al and it was high time the state authorities decidedly disallowed the idea that universalism was his strong point. There were things that took you to the Guyana Store but, unfortunately, you never felt inclined to hit beyond the schedule of your particular errand.
And while the cynics might argue that state involvement in the supermarket industry is an affront to the private sector, the assertion is – and is entirely valid – that there is nothing wrong with creating ‘sanctuaries’ national to what we can do and more especially to those who come out of their way to march their skills before the country and the world.
Market Days, mostly modest but highly desirable issues, were mostly Saturdays, when people set aside their familiar city market shopping and came out in power to ‘patronize’ the farmers who had turned up from remote locations to benefit from what one might call a ‘one-off’ field day. Sadly, popular opinion insisted that these Market Days could not somehow be combined into more elaborate matters.
The Guyana Store can thrive even in the midst of the ‘rough and tumble’ of the promised oil and gas related investment invasion. The market, as well as the reputation of what the Shop has to offer, will grow exponentially and the people whose products have been ‘bricks and mortar’ will have laid the foundation for The Guyana Shop is growing with him and, one trusts him, reaping the rewards that are forthcoming for what they have given to make it work.