Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Red Hills Road staple, Xxtra Supermarket, to close doors Saturday

Published:Tuesday | December 31, 2019 | 12:39 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Customers make their way into Xxtra Supermarket in the Red Hills Mall yesterday ahead of its closure this weekend.
Customers make their way into Xxtra Supermarket in the Red Hills Mall yesterday ahead of its closure this weekend.

Fifty workers will be out of a job this weekend as Xxtra, a staple supermarket on the cross-town corridor of Red Hills Road, will close its doors for good, succumbing to economic headwinds that its management said were too strong to battle.

The supermarket, which first opened in 1992, operates out of Red Hills Mall, a one-of-a-kind shopping complex in that section of the city. But the ageing mall is located across from a number of gritty neighbourhoods that have been racked by crime for decades, including One Hundred Lane and Park Lane.

The Chinese-owned Xxtra officially shutters on Saturday, January 4, 2020, and will be undertaking a redundancy exercise.

Xxtra has familial ties with the management of Lee’s Food Fair, a glitzier supermarket less than a mile away at the Elizabeth Avenue intersection. Unlike Lee’s, which has undergone major renovation, Xxtra’s plant has grown more ragged over time. The operators of Xxtra told The Gleaner that they have finally thrown in the towel in attempting to keep the business afloat.

Workers hopeful

“We have been trying for years, but this year has been bad. Business is bad at the mall,” said a male Chinese manager who requested that his name not be published.

“Supermarket business at the location is unprofitable, really unprofitable. It’s just like Sunrise (Supermarket), closed, and we are closing,” he said yesterday.

One of the cashiers who has worked at Xxtra since its opening 27 years ago said she was hopeful of bouncing back.

“I serve a living God and I always ask Him to have a divine way in my life. He is the One that has my future. I see this as God’s divine will. He always shuts one door and opens another, so I am not worried or upset,” said the cashier, who gave her name as Janet.

Another employee told The Gleaner that although the closure would affect him, he was determined not to sulk.

“It’s sad, but I can’t sit down,” he said, contemplating his next move.

But another employee who has worked at the supermarket for close to 10 years told The Gleaner that crime and violence had made the area less conducive for sustainable commerce, including crimping sales along the strip famous for its jerk chicken pan vendors.

Among the enterprises that have shut down in recent years is Sugar & Spice, a patty shop that had operated from 118 Red Hills Road for close to 40 years. It closed in 2016 after coming under pressure from extortionists, the police had confirmed when The Sunday Gleaner first reported the story.

“Extortion is mainly affecting business, between 100 Lane and Park Lane. When Red Hills Road kick up, it’s a lot of problems to come here to shop,” the worker, who declined to reveal his name, said.

“Even the other malls across the road and in the vicinity are not doing well, and these businesses feed off each other in terms of customer movement,” the employee added.

Yesterday, there were very few customers along the halls of the mall and limited traffic in the vast parking lot.

When Xxtra closes, there will only be one major drawing card for the plaza – Island Grill. Red Hills Mall, which was once buzzing with National Commercial Bank, the popular Jencare spa, and Western Union, now hosts telecom FLOW, a dentist’s office, barber and hairdressing salons, and a pharmacy.

Factions trading bullets

Sections of Red Hills Road have been tense in 2019, forcing the police to maintain a constant presence in the vicinity of the troubled 100 Lane and Park Lane communities where warring factions have been trading bullets.

A number of persons have been killed and others shot and injured.

The latest murder occurred on Sunday, December 22. The deceased was identified only by his alias, ‘Kishy’.

The police reported that about 8:30 p.m., ‘Kishy’ was at a restaurant on Red Hills Road purchasing food. The Gleaner gathered that when he exited the establishment and was making his way home to Park Lane, he was attacked and shot multiple times.

He died on the spot.

Our news team tried to contact head of the St Andrew North Police Division, Superintendent Leighton Gray, but several calls to his cell phone went unanswered.