Fri | Jun 2, 2023

‘JSIF gave us a million-dollar step’

Mom strives to keep business going after partner, 9-month-old daughter murdered

Published:Thursday | April 13, 2023 | 1:21 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
It was a bittersweet moment as Mona Sue Ho (left), senior manager of social development at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, handed Alicia Robb a posthumous award for her and her late spouse, Delano Christie, at the JSIF Integrated Community Development Project II Awards Ceremony on April 6. The couple operated D’s First Choice Ice-Cream and Pastries in Norwood, St James. Christie and the couple’s nine-month-old daughter were killed in a gun attack last November.

Alecia Robb never imagined that less than seven years after opening a business with her partner, Delano Christie, she would become the sole operator.

She recalled that around 2015, they mulled over the possibility of exploring entrepreneurship but could not settle on what service they would offer or what products they would sell.

The duo assessed the establishments in the community and recognised that an ice cream shop was missing, and in 2016, D's First Choice Ice Cream & Pastries was opened in Norwood, St James.

To date, it remains the only business in the community that sells ice cream.

“Ever since we started, business has been good. We have never fallen short. When we make a profit, we just keep investing in the business,” the 32-year-old said.

Tragedy struck on November 16, 2022 and she was robbed of her partner of 13 years and her nine-month-old daughter.

Robb was overcome with emotions last Thursday as the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) honoured Christie, a beneficiary of the Integrated Community Development Project II (ICPD II), with a posthumous award.

D's First Choice Ice Cream & Pastries also copped three awards for Resilience, Entrepreneurship, and Creativity and Innovation.

Senior manager for social development, Mona Sue Ho, said Christie was an outstanding awardee.

“In November, while sitting outside his newly established business place, ... he was shot and he died. He was holding his nine-month-old daughter, who died a week later,” Sue Ho detailed.

The couple also share a nine-year-old son.

Sue Ho commended Robb for her commitment to keeping the business open and ensuring that Christie's legacy lives on.

Under the project, JSIF has spent some $71.7 million between July 2020 to March 2021 and August 2021 to June 2022, $71.7 million on grants, equipment, tools and materials, business development training, assistance with company registration as well as support for community outreach activities.

Following JSIF's investment in their business, the duo opened a second location, also in Norwood, in June 2022.

“We really appreciated the deep freezer. Without the freezer, we couldn't have and we wouldn't have opened the next location. JSIF gave us a million-dollar step because when we stocked that freezer, we got a chance to make more revenue to open the next location,” Robb explained.

She continued: “We wanted to sell ice cream by the box and fudge by the case, so when we got the deep freezer, we opened the second location because we were in a small space.”

With that expansion, they also began offering cooked food and grocery items for sale.

Robb explained that during the holidays, they hire a few youth to serve in the ice cream shop, while the second location provided permanent employment for two people until its closure last November.

“We also had two people who worked on the weekend. Delano was a good person so others would come around and help out at the shop all the time,” Robb told The Gleaner.

Coping without Christie and her daughter has been difficult, but Robb is determined to press forward.

“It took me all of November, December, January and half of February before I went back there. I'm still trying to get everything back up and running. The business was registered in January 2017 and to renew the licence, I have to change it from a partnership to a sole trader, but I am awaiting the death certificate to do that. It's difficult for me right now, but I am taking it one day at a time. It feels like I'm starting over,” Robb said in a low tone.

She admitted that since their deaths, she has not felt safe in Norwood.

“I don't feel safe anymore. I have to walk past the shop to reach home and because it happened in the community, it's not like it was a drive-by; it was a walk foot. I just don't know who to trust,” she said, adding that their nine-year-old son has also been finding it difficult to cope.

She explained that sometimes he does not speak, so she is unsure of the thoughts running through his mind.

Robb told The Gleaner that she has to constantly reassure him that life will get better.

“If Delano was still alive, I know that we would be more than making it because we had all we needed – one business backing up the next,” Robb remarked, noting that though she has been hit by a double tragedy, she is working daily to triumph in the face of adversity.