No boom, just bust at Wismar market

- vendors urge intervention to save businesses

Less than a decade after an over $100 million reconstruction, the Wismar Municipal Market still isn’t seeing much activity and its remaining stallholders are hoping for an intervention to keep them in business.

“We in here struggling to pull a dollar,” said vendor Jillie Amsterdam, during a recent fact finding mission at the facility by Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon, Member of Parliament Vanessa Kissoon and councillors Gerald Wittington, Maurice Butters and Stanley Humphrey. “When the day come is bad enough, but look, it just after four and you see how dark dis place is?” Amsterdam added.

The vegetated state of the front of the Wismar Municipal Market

Although the market is the older of two under the care of the Linden municipality and once was a hub of activity when business was booming in the mining town, vendors say the facility has been neglected.

Prior to the reconstruction, a few vendors held on to their spots in the market while others had moved to the other side of the road to sell. The market was reopened in 2004 and although it is home to approximately 200 stalls, it is only occupied by just over 50 vendors, including those operating in area surrounding the facility.

Like Amsterdam, another vendor complained about the poor lighting in the market and she added that since she is located at the rear, she is forced to take her wares to the front of the market to try to make a sale. “Dis is ridiculous…. Many days—sometimes a whole week—would pass and you ain’t make a single dollar in dis market. And yet the Town Council or nobody ain’t doing nothing for us to help cushion this crisis. Yes, I calling it a crisis in the market,” she said.

The leaning oil tank at the back of one vendor’s shop

The market is scheduled to close at 8 pm and, despite the lighting problem, some vendors rally on. They claim that all the market staff would leave before 8 pm, including the staff responsible for the toilets. “We got women in here and, ever so often when you are ready to use the toilet, you can’t because they gone and even with the keys, long before six and all,” said a vendor.

The owner of a shop in the market compound said that he is fearful that he might suffer great losses. He pointed the fact finding team to the gasoline tank leaning behind his shop. “I keep telling them about this thing and they not taking me seriously. If this fall, my place would definitely get a hard hit and destroy,” he said. Another opined that though the tank is no longer in use, it may cause a serious fire if it falls, since there is still a reasonable amount of oil in it.

Rislon Britton, who operates a stall at the front of the market, was among those who lamented the maintenance of the structure and especially the roof. “Look, they got this roof causing us to get flood out whenever it rains. They don’t clean deh roof,” said Britton. Others expressed disgust at the unkempt surroundings and the charges for using the toilet facilities.

Stabroek News was told that the contractor who is engaged by the Linden Town Council to clean the roof has been reluctant to do so recently because he is not paid in a timely manner. This was confirmed by the Clerk of Market Bernadette Smith, who added that the vendors’ complaints are not new to the council since she regularly reports on them.

Smith further stated that although a number of workable suggestions were recommended to the council, nothing has been done. “All we get is deaf ears. Nobody comes to sit observe and listen and we keep telling them that this is what they need to be doing in order for them to understand our situation,” she said.

During the visit by Solomon, Kissoon and regional councillors, the vendors appealed for them to lobby harder for the Mahdia and Lethem bus parks to be assigned to a stretch of land adjacent to the market. They added that the area was developed through community efforts and but the relocation of the bus parks has not been pursued. “Once they do, this market would rise from the ashes and boom again,” said a vendor.