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Gittens beats the economic downturn
Morvant residents have the choice of local bakery items like pies, bread, sweet bread, phoulorie and cakes from a newly-opened bakery outlet at Old St Joseph Road. The fifth outlet belonging to East Side Bakers’ Ltd proprietor Glen Gittens opened its doors in January 2011. He was able to open a business at a time when the economy had slowed down worldwide.
Wearing tall boots, to brave the bad weather, Gittens turned up for an interview last Thursday morning. He said the idea for his business was envisioned by him and his wife. “My wife (Gale Gittens) and I started planning in September 2010. We put about $700,000 into it. The production house for the other outlets is at the back of the bakery. We identified Morvant as the production house. We make the pies here and send it to the other outlets for baking. Customers would get it hot right there.
He said they concentrate on selling local treats. “We serve local vegetables including carailli, saltfish, pumpkin and saada rotis. Local dishes that Trinis like to eat. We look at customers’ palates when we are planning what to serve at the outlets,” Gittens said. Another marketing strategy was ensuring his bakeries sold more than just good old-fashioned bread.
“When you think of a bakery, you think of bread, and, maybe pastries. We did a little extra. We have breakfast and lunch at Marli Street. We serve food at the San Juan branch. We afford 24-hour service at Duncan Street and San Juan.” He’s keenly aware the area has been labelled a hot spot. “I know. But somebody has to do something positive. I get a lot of love from my customers. There are people who love to pop by. People are now using the bakery as a landmark.”
Meanwhile, Gittens is concentrating his skills and expertise on opening another outlet at Crowne Point, Tobago, by December. “I am already in discussions with the bene-ball producers. I want to give them more Indian delicacies like khurma, barfi and gulab jamon. Foreigners would love to take these tasty treats abroad.”
Inside Morvant production house
Inside the Morvant production house was a beehive of activity. Employees wearing hair nets were busy wrapping, rolling out dough with a rolling pin (bilna) and applying “gloss” with a pastry brush. The production house was cold and clean as a whistle. Gittens said his business employs about 150 people. At Morvant, the majority were drawn from areas like Sea Lots, Beetham Gardens, Laventille and Morvant.
“We have about 24 employees here...including the bakery and production house. A lot of the staff are single mothers. I try to give people from the underprivileged areas a break. Somebody has to lend a hand.” Despite increases in the price of wheat, he tries to keep the prices customer friendly. Customers can choose from an assortment of pies fetching $2, biscuit cake $1.50, currant rolls $6, sweetbread $18, and a bag of hops from $7 to $9.
‘Plant the land’
Entrepreneur Glen Gittens says if T&T was serious about buying local, there had to be a concerted effort to put more root crops into the ground. In an October 23 interview with the Sunday Guardian, former agriculture minister Vasant Bharath had said T&T spent about $4 billion on imported food per annum. He said, “We have to cultivate more root crops. We have 3/4 acre of cassava at Couva. We have plantain and dasheen in Plum Mitan. We have to penetrate rural areas.”
Another innovation was giving customers a variety of local foods. He said, “We need to serve a lot of local foods like dasheens, yams, cassava, cush cush and eddoes. Two of the outlets offer saltfish and dasheen. We have people who love their dhal and rice.” Apart from planting indigenous foods, Gittens envisioned having about 100,000 acres of land under cultivation and engaging in animal husbandry. “I hope to be able to employ another 200 or 300 people,” he said.
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