OVERJOYED: Vendors thankful to return to straw market after 20-month closure

OVERJOYED: Vendors thankful to return to straw market after 20-month closure

Half of the 360 vendors will work half the week and swap with second group on weekly basis

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With a smile beaming from ear to ear as she stacked an assorted of straw hats and wood carvings onto a colored shelf, generational straw market vendor Patricia Johnson said the opening of the Straw Market downtown represented “Christmas for children”.

Straw Market vendor Patricia Johnson [PHOTO: Royston Jones Jr.]
“After 20 months lockdown and couldn’t see the city for smoke,” she told Eyewitness News as visitors made their way through the manned entrance to sanitize and temperature check before exploring the stalls.

“Having bills, rent to pay, mortgage to pay for some folks.

“Me myself, I pay mortgage. Thank God I have a husband and a daughter who was helping me because I haven’t seen a dollar for the last 20 months.

“So, opening today is like Christmas. It is really like Christmas.”

One-hundred and eighty vendors of the 360 returned to their stalls yesterday.

Those who returned to the straw market, referred to as Group A, will work three days this week and four days next week, while the remaining vendors — Group B — will do the opposite.

It is a temporary measure as the Straw Market Authority and health officials in conjunction with the government seek more long-term solutions, according to Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears.

When asked how many vendors had been vaccinated, Sears said he was made to understand a “significant portion”, but could not provide a specific figure.

Johnson is among the fully vaccinated vendors.

Leonnie Previlun, a vendor of more than 30 years said: “It feels good. You know we’ve been home for so long, and I am look forward to making some money because Christmas is right there. I just thankful to be back here.”

Leonnie Previlun, a vendor of more than 30 years [PHOTO: Royston Jones Jr.]
What it means to be to open in the fresh air, to see all my coworkers and to interact with the tourists. I like to talk to the tourists and I like to make the sales too, but just to be out here.

“We were locked down so long, you just did feel trapped and to be out here for us feels like freedom.”

Asked if she was concerned about working three and four days per week on rotation, vendor Debra Miller said she was not as the opening of the Straw Market means “we get a fresh start”.

“As we open, it will get better,” she said, moments after completing a sale.

“Everybody has to have a chance, so this is my day. I am going to appreciate it and then the next person will just appreciate their day.”

When asked if the last 20 months has been particularly tough without work, she said: “I am a Christian and God has been faithful, so I cannot say it. I cannot. I have to give God all the praise and the glory. He came through.”

Jean Cartwright said she was proud to be back.

Jean Cartwright

“Do you know what it means to be home for 22 months?” she asked.

“There was nothing. I don’t have no big family. I have three children and one of them used to work to BEC, but he was forced to take a package.

“He is really at home and my eldest son worked for government because he builds roads for many years. We feel so good today, honestly. We are not home.

“We can see the tourists walking around, in and out.”

Of the rotational shifts, she said she understands the need to distance though her stall at the front of the Straw Market is well over eight feet from another other stall.