CLAIMS BY the police that downtown Kingston is safe for shoppers have been endorsed by businessman Marcus Handal, who operates a business in Luke Lane, which was opened by his father in 1936.
"Personally, I feel a hundred per cent safe down here, and there are certain areas of the country I won't feel safe in," Handal told The Gleaner as he echoed the view expressed by the police that persons visiting the market district have no reason to be afraid.
According to Handal, the security risk in downtown Kingston is no more than in any commercial district in the world.
"If you even go to the United States, in Miami, there are certain sections of Miami you go to where you would be more at risk than downtown Kingston," declared Handal.
He accepted that the lack of parking space has given rise to a culture where persons are pressuring shoppers to pay to park in some public areas.
"I have not faced the extortionists since I have been down here, but we have to address the problem where some people are demanding that persons pay to park. But you have the formal parking areas that you can use."
Handal said business has declined in some sections of the city because they are off the beaten track and not properly promoted.
"What you can get downtown you will get it at a fraction of the price that you would pay for it uptown.
"What happens is that the promotions focus on King Street and Parade with no mention of Beckford Street, Orange Street, Princess Street, Luke Lane, West Street, and those areas where you can get the most bargains," said Handal, whose store was one of the many in Luke Lane, which sold the best-quality cloth, particularly for men.
"Business has fallen off over the years. You have to keep up with the times and you can't specialise like you used to," said Handal, whose father started the store as a fabric centre.
"Every store in Luke Lane used to sell pants length, but what you find is that people have to change and offer more things."
But even as he changes with the times and despite the fall-off in business, Handal is prepared to keep running the store he has known since he was a young child.
"I would never leave downtown. It has been in the family blood for years and I would not leave downtown, but I want to see it brought back to yesteryear, where there is order and there is discipline."