Issa shakes off rejection, delivers supermarket for Richmond
Developer of Richmond Estate in St Ann, Elias 'Lee' Issa says he has spent $50 million on a boutique supermarket for the residential complex and will add a medical centre by next year.
The LFA Country Store opened at the end of May. Issa said the supermarket takes its name from the acronym of another of his business interests, the clothing retail chain, Lee's Fifth Avenue.
"When we came up with the vision of Richmond, I sold people on the concept that I was creating a township where people can live and find all the amenities that you would find in an urban area," he said. The development caters mostly to returning residents and professional clients.
Residents, he said, welcomed the relief from travelling to the city centre to shop. The supermarket sits in front of the more than 500-acre Richmond Estate, and is about a quarter mile from Priory.
"The people that live there are happy to have something close at hand that provides a one-stop shop," he said.
The 8,000 square-foot boutique supermarket also houses a deli, pharmacy and liquor store and has a staff of 12.
Initially, the developer harboured hopes of getting a major supermarket chain to manage the facility, but none was interested. The location did not seem appealing to grocery retailers, Issa said.
"I tried all the top performers in the marketplace. We would build the supermarket for them and they would operate it, but everybody said the area is not ready yet, so we decided to keep good faith with our residents that we would go ahead and build it and operate it ourselves," he said.
Issa is also hoping the developments now underway along the north coast will feed business to the supermarket.
"There is a lot of development going on in Trelawny and St Ann and a lot of it is housing developments," he said.
"They are very close to where the supermarket is ... we are not going to be in the boondocks, we will be on the main thoroughfare," he said.
He is also planning to supply resort villas with groceries and will be offering free delivery in the area covering Discovery Bay "all the way back to Jamaica Beach, St Mary" as a hook business. The free delivery service will be for large purchases.
"We have gotten some villas to sign on. They (guests) come for a week, so they stock up for a week's supply, and normally, there are like four to seven bedrooms to these villas," said Issa.
"It's a nice chump change that you would not normally get because the local business is shared up among so many different people. So that is our link to the hospitality industry," he said.
Construction of the medical centre is to begin in 2016. It will cater especially to the retirees at Richmond who want a top facility close by.
Richmond Estate has so far sold some 600 units of the planned 1,678 homes being developed in three phases - to be known individually as Fern Court, The Palms and Coolshade. The development sits on lands once used for sugar cane cultivation in the garden parish and upon completion should cost roughly $15 billion.