The Rise and Fall of Winn Dixie

The Rise and Fall of Winn Dixie

The Rise

The rise and fall of Winn Dixie in Grand Bahama took place from when the supermarket opened in the year 1967 until it closed in 2012. Winn Dixie was originally an American based company. In the year 1967, Winn Dixie came into effect in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Winn Dixie is a well-known supermarket that was located in Downtown. This supermarket is a place of mourning. It was convenient for many people that shopped for grocery and house- hold supplies. In the 1960’s, the economy of Freeport was booming. There was a sudden decline in the economy in the year 2006. After the supermarket had its rise, it came to a fall. The effects of the economy was a primitive measure to the closure of Winn Dixie.

In the 1960’s, during the booming era a new supermarket was brought to Grand Bahama by the United States Winn Dixie Company. The grocery store was called Winn Dixie because that was one of the food labels of the Winn Dixie Company. The supermarket gained large profits because it was the only supermarket around during this time until pantry pride came which closed in 1985. Since it was the only grocery store around, there were many customers that came to shop for consumer goods and household items. Kirkland Brown who is a former assistant manager and last working employee at the supermarket said, downtown was the “epicenter of Grand Bahama while Winn Dixie was opened.” When I asked him if downtown was well developed while he worked at Winn Dixie he mentioned, “Over one hundred businesses were opened including Banks small and large.” (K. Brown, personal communication, March 3, 2019). In the 1970’s-80’s when Grand Bahama became more developed with other stores in Downtown, the Winn Dixie supermarket was still famous and received much credit from people. The supermarket was helpful to local Grand Bahamians. Many people worked at Winn Dixie whether they were managers, cashiers or even if they had to pack groceries into bags.  A former employee at Winn Dixie said, “The economy at the time was excellent,” when the supermarket was opened. (E. Williams, personal communication, March 3, 2019). Additionally, Winn Dixie offered food stamps to grocery shoppers. Although, the economy was thriving and consumer items were more affordable than now, the supermarket still offered food stamps and if you had an adequate amount of food stamps, you received a discount on items purchased. Nancy Evans, a former worker of Winn Dixie shared one of her best memories working there, she said, “The inventory and sales being great and the staff getting big bonus cheques.” (N. Evans, personal communication, March 1, 2019). The employees benefited well with their regular paychecks and bonus cheques. The bonus cheques could have helped with their utility bills and other responsibilities they had to deal with. Winn Dixie was helpful during its Rise.

Figure 1, People shopping at Winn Dixie in Downtown Freeport, (Monday March 12 2001)

Figure 1, People shopping at Winn Dixie in Downtown Freeport, The Freeport News, (Monday March 12 2001)


The Fall

In the 2000’s the economy of Grand Bahama was at its peak to falling and Winn Dixie was effected by this. Winn Dixie allowed boys to work packing groceries into bags as an afterschool job. Four boys once worked at Winn Dixie, who was murdered by a man they all allegedly knew in the year, 2002. The names of the boys were: Mackinson Colas, Junior Reme, DeAngelo McKenzie, and Desmond Rolle. The boys were between the ages of eleven to fourteen. At that time there weren’t any age limit put in place regarding children to be a specific age in order to work at supermarkets afterschool. Cordell Farrington murdered the boys and there was an on-going investigation to find them. Bahamas Police, the FBI and Scotland Yard worked on the investigation. This harbinger of bad days to come caused the families of the victims to be left bereaved. An uncle to DeAngelo McKenzie named Hercules Knowles said, “It’s a hard thing to deal with,” and he ended by saying, “It ends the waiting. It’s something (now) you can put to rest.” (Duncombe, 2003). This could have had a local impact on residents of the Grand Bahama community. The crime could have left parents afraid to allow their sons to work at Winn Dixie. A former worker of Winn Dixie shared that, there was a further decline in the economy after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004. (R. Williams, personal communication, March 2, 2019). Many people had to reinvest into homes after they were destroyed by the epidemics. Winn Dixie was at its lowest when, the parent chain company filed for bankruptcy in 2006. Although the Grand Bahama markets were profitable, the money was insufficient to get this company out of its bankruptcy. (Winn-Dixie to Sell Bahamas Supermarkets, 2006).

Figure 2, Winn Dixie destroyed, Facebook, (January 26 2017).

The Selling of Winn Dixie

In 2006, Winn Dixie sold the City Markets for four million dollars to Bahamas Supermarkets Limited, abbreviated (BSL). The owner of Bahamas Supermarkets Limited is unknown. Like the parent chain Company, BSL also became bankrupt leaving the supermarket in jeopardy. The only thing that was considered was to sell the City Markets once again. In 2010, a Bahamian investor by the name of Mark Finlayson along with his family bought seventy-eight percent of share in Winn Dixie for eleven million dollars. In the year 2011, City Markets came to a closure in Grand Bahama. In March 2012, Finlayson tried selling the remaining five store chain for fourteen million dollars. It was sold to Super Value in April 2012. The City Markets were left bankrupt without a person or business that could have revived it, so it came to a permanent closure in 2012. The bankruptcy and closure of the City Markets also had a major impact on the employees. As Winn Dixie’s Company was declining, the employees complained about having to report to another work station not notified by management. They had to move to new locations because of the closure of some of the City Markets. The Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dion Foulkes and Finlayson worked on strategies to allow the workers to reduce their work week instead of having “layoffs.” The City Markets battled with infrastructural issues, which needed renovations. Also, the employees struggled because some were going to lose their jobs. They were highly concerned because they had families and financial responsibilities. When the grocery store came to a closure, many people lost their jobs. A former employee named Kirkland Brown, explained that the unemployment rate increased because of Winn Dixie’s closure. The closure was a major problem to deal with because it took months for many people to find a new job. Additionally, the workers didn’t receive pensions or severance pay. They were promised to receive the monies due to them. Since they did not get their monies they sued the City Market Company and this matter is still being dealt with in court. An article mentioned, it was over two years since three hundred workers were laid off and did not receive their pensions or severance pay. (Jones Bahamas, 2014). Those hardworking people waited tirelessly on the monies they deserved. The employees kept a good fight but they still was left treated unfairly. According to an article, a former City Market worker said, “All we’re asking is for the respective owners to be honest, upfront and give us our money.” (Jones Bahamas, 2014). The employees expressed their frustrations so that they could have been heard, they wanted the Company to show empathy towards them but nothing changed they were left without their financial funds. Mark Finlayson blamed the wholesalers for the problems faced by the former workers. He said they did not honor their agreements. Finlayson argued that the distributors cannot just make an agreement and don’t fulfill in the agreement, and people can’t just walk away from damage. (Finlayson attacks distributors for City Market demise, 2012). Mark Finlayson washed his hands clean from being a part of the workers not receiving their monies. The Trans Island Traders were left in charge to give the workers their funds. An article stated, “There will be full disclosure and the chips will all where they may, my hands are clean.”  (Mark Finlayson says relative to City Pension Fund My hands are clean, Bahamas Press, 2011). The employees were committed to their jobs and worked effortlessly, they should have gotten their full share of monies.


Figure 3, City Market closures trigger staff outrage, The Nassau Guardian,
Grant T. (Friday September 16 2011).

No one expected the closure of the Winn Dixie because Grand Bahamians loved the grocery store and liked shopping there. Although the employees did not receive their monies, they had memorable experiences working at the grocery store. A former employee named Rudolph Wildgoose said, one of his best memory working there was, “The Winn Dixie supermarket owners and the Port Authority treated him well.” (R. Wildgoose, personal communication, March 6, 2019). Some of the employees enjoyed meeting and assisting customers that came into the supermarket. A former Winn Dixie worker said that one of his best memory was the family like atmosphere.

Figure 4, Cashier serving a customer while buying groceries, The Freeport News, (December 6 1995).

The Rise and Fall of Winn Dixie had both a positive and negative impact on the employees and the supermarket. The grocery store was accepted by many local Grand Bahamian shoppers. Winn Dixie brought blessings to many people but after the economy’s decline, the Company suddenly couldn’t have supported this supermarket any further. The store might have closed leaving many people distraught and mourning whether if the person was a grocery shopper or a former employee but the legacy of Winn Dixie will forever live in the hearts of many people.

Reference

Duncombe, D. (2003). Bahamas Man Charged After 4 Boys Vanish. The Associated Press Writer.

Finlayson attacks distributors for City Market demise. (2012).

Mark Finlayson says relative to City Pension Fund “My hands are clean, Bahamas Press. (2011).

Jones, B. (2014). Former City Market Employees Demand Pay. The Bahama Journal.

Winn-Dixie to Sell Bahamas Supermarkets. (2006).

Interviews

Brown, K. (2019, March 3). Personal Communication, (Interview).

Evans, N (2019, March 1). Personal Communication, (Interview).

Wildgoose. R (2019, March 6).personal communication, (Interview).

Williams, E (2019, March 3). Personal Communication, (Interview).

Williams, R. (2019, March 2). Personal Communication, (Interview).

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. RavelleForbes

    This post was my favorite. It’s so amazing that someone can remind us of the great Winn Dixie. What I liked most about this post is how it was extremely detailed. It showed how booming Winn Dixie use to be and now it’s like nothing was ever happening there. What I didn’t know was that this great franchise ended in bankruptcy leaving employees devoid of their pension funds. I’ve also learned that these employees have sort legal action and the case is currently in the courts. To my knowledge and from what I’ve read in this post, this case has not been resolved as yet.
    Also great pictures!!!

  2. LatekaStubbs

    I particularly became fascinated with this post. It brought to light the rise and fall of the once thriving Winn Dixie food store located in the heart of down town Freeport. The store eventually closed in 2011 after some bad publicity about the disappearance of the “5 missing boys” and bankruptcy. What was also interesting to learn is that the former employees of this establishment never received their severance pay. Furthermore, this matter is still an on going battle before the courts some eight years latter. I really appreciate how informative the post was as well as, the sequential order in which the information was presented. It is also evident as to the amount of research went into uncovering such evidence, analyzing it and organizing it in a very detailed form. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post!

  3. AbigailSimms

    I really like this blog post because it brings back old memories of Freeport. Before the closing of Winn Dixie, the downtown area had so much life and activities held there. It seems as though the supermarket is what brought all of the shoppers to the area. On weekends or even weekdays people who would go to the supermarket would go there and be surrounded by all of the other stores and probably found reasons to shop with them also. I remember doing it with my family members as a child. The area would be so crowded on weekends. My mother would take my sister and I along with her. It’s just really surreal how a place that was so amazing has now become a ghost town. Winn Dixie really was a major loss for the Downtown Freeport area. I hope one day the building is restored for its original purpose which is to be a supermarket.

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