PHILIPSBURG – One week after Hurricane Irma struck St. Maarten on September 6 of last year, the transformation of the Le Grand Marché supermarket on Bush Road into a sparkling new Carrefour Market began. It took activities around the clock, 46 containers stuffed with building materials and equipment, not to mention $4 million – but now the Carrefour Market is, as its co-owner Anil Sabnani expresses it, “one of the top supermarkets in the Caribbean.”
By Hilbert Haar
“We were open from 8 in the morning until 8 at night for our customers and after that from 8 at night until 8 in the morning for renovation,” Sabnani says. The result: “This is the fastest way Carrefour has seen anybody rebuild a supermarket.”
Le Grand Marché was a fixture in St. Maarten as its largest supermarket since 2002. But after fifteen years of service, its concept was worn out, acknowledges Sabnani as well. “Something good came off Irma,” he says now. Together with his partner Danny Ramchandani he had a decision to make – one that would have an effect not only on St. Maarten as a whole, but also on the 240 employees the company has on its payroll.
Hurricane Irma hit the old supermarket hard. “We lost our roof and seventy percent of our inventory was looted,” Sabnani says. “All our refrigeration equipment was destroyed. We were very well insured but the claim with the insurance company has not been settled yet. The WIB bank backed us. They said: what do you need us to do?”
And so, one week after the hurricane, the renovation project started and the results are there now for everyone to see. “We have a better lay-out. The previous lay out stems from the Food Center days; we had to accept at the time what was there. With the change, we are now able to offer 50 percent more products; that’s everything we had plus the complete Carrefour line of products.”
That product line includes a wide variety of organic products, also in the vegetable department.
Carrefour sent a team from France to help with the renovation, and Sabnani is grateful for their assistance. “They helped design the store. Everything in here is new; nothing is old.”
As an employer, Sabnani stands out as a beacon for excellent behavior. He says that all 240 staff members stayed on the payroll after the hurricane. “They worked day and night,’ he says. “We paid them for September as well, even though there was no business and the store was closed.”
Nevertheless, Sabnani says that, in terms of the economy, things will get worse before they will get better. “We will have our challenges too,” he says. “We are overstaffed, but I do not have the heart to let anyone go.”
Sabnani’s motivation for the overhaul of Le Grand Marché into the Carrefour Market is threefold. “It has a lot to do with my staff,” he says. “They kept turning up for work. My love for St. Maarten is also a factor. And I felt that I needed to step up to the plate, to put something back into the economy and show that St. Maarten can come back strongly.”
In November, while the renovation was in full swing, five armed men paid a visit to the store and robbed it. Afterwards, Sabnani asked the government for help with security, “but nothing has happened,” he says somewhat disappointed.
The Carrefour Market in Cole Bay was also hit hard by Hurricane Irma but Sabnani assures that this store will make a comeback as well. “The renovations in Cole Bay will begin this month,’ he says.
The choice for Carrefour was an easy one for Sabnani and Ramchandani. “They have excellent products with a better price. People get to save a lot of money that way. My purchasing power is stronger and I pass that on to our customers.”
Photo caption: Anil Sabnani (fourth from left) with staff members in the sparkling new Carrefour Market. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Top photo caption: The Le Grand Marché sign on the building at Bush Road has been replaced by the Carrefour logo. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Source: StMaartenNews http://stmaartennews.com/business/carrefour-market-offers-50-percent-products/