Foreigners drawn to ‘quaint’ Ackee Village
At the time of its official opening, Ackee Village, located off Dyke Road in Portmore, St Catherine, was tipped to be a major pull for tourists seeking a different Jamaican experience.
Five months on, it's beginning to show signs that it could indeed become something of an attraction as evidenced by the sight of a few visitors shopping for food items at the village on Boxing Day.
"Oh, wow! It's a lot safer here for sure. I was here some time ago and I happened to have bought some stuff from them when they were on the road. I am delighted to see them in here," said Frederick Lewis, a Jamaican national who lives in the United States.
Lewis said it was a refreshing get-away from the bustle of the roadside but noted that the traffic that the vendors were once used to may not follow them into the village because of its location.
"But if they can add some type of attraction and some signs giving directions to the place, it could be even better," he said.
Richard Williams and his wife, Ann, who have been on the island visiting family for the Christmas holidays, seconded Lewis's sentiments.
"We came to see family in Portmore, and we heard of the place and decided to come over. It is very nice and quaint. It's a new thing, so I suspect it is not yet highly publicised. But you get the sense that once people know of it, then more will come," Williams said.
Eleven million dollars from the Ministry of Local Government was spent on the project, with a further US$80,000 provided through funding by the Caribbean Local Economic Development project in conjunction with the Portmore Municipality.
Plans have been drawn up to add to the 20 stalls already in place, with space available for a riverside park and restaurant on the 26 acres of land, which houses the village.
... A work in progress
Winford Lindsay, owner and operator of Ackee Bird Green Grocery, could not hold back his excitement over the prospects for Ackee Village, off Dyke Road in Portmore, St Catherine
"If I say this is not working, I swear, God would a strike me. It sell off, up!" he exclaimed.
"This is the best thing, me nah lie. We were kind a reluctant at first to come here, but since I have come, things are looking good. The facility is really helping to make it easier for us. Customers are pleased with it. We have clean bathrooms and water, with good parking spaces," he said.
Yvonne Green said it was still a work in progress as her customers were beginning to find her following the relocation.
Green said that the village was already proving its value to the customers, who spoke of its uniqueness and the clean environment in which they were now able to shop.
"Christmas was OK. Saturday was the best day. The customers say they are comfortable, and that is the most impressive thing," Green said.
But while sales and traffic into Ackee Village are beginning to increase, there is a major issue that needs addressing, according to the vendors, who noted that the stalls are without electricity.
"The lighting thing needs to be resolved. They have the 20-metre sockets in place, but we cannot get the electricity until a transformer is installed to bring the power into the facility," offered Allondo Gregory, Ackee Village vice-president.
"Once that is taken care of, we will be good. But that aside, it's a good look in terms of the sales we were doing and the potential for the future," he said.