Saturday 21 September, 2019

How one small business operator is surviving Hagley Pk Rd challenges

Businessman Juma Levy lamenting the circumstances he, like other business operators along the Hagley Park Road strip in St Andrew, has had to endure for many months amid major road improvement works in the area. (Photos: Marlon Reid)

Businessman Juma Levy lamenting the circumstances he, like other business operators along the Hagley Park Road strip in St Andrew, has had to endure for many months amid major road improvement works in the area. (Photos: Marlon Reid)

The proprietor of Hair 4 U & JJ Mobile, Juma Levy, says he has lost up to 50 per of his small cell phone repair and hair supply business which is located at 139 Hagley Park Road in St Andrew because of the ongoing major road improvement works in the area.

While Levy is of the view that he and other business operators in the development area should be compensated for their losses, he noted that things could have been much worse but for a fortuitous decision he took in the weeks before the start of the road works.

“I started doing the pick-up and delivery thing just before the road work began. I don’t know if it is luck or good business planning,” Levy expressed. “That has worked out for me in a major way,” said Levy who returned to Jamaica about five years ago after spending 15 years in the United States. He started his business about three years ago.

Levy outside his business establishment.

Levy told Loop News that because of the location of his business near the intersection of Hagley Park Road and Waltham Park Road, some of his more affluent clients, in particular the females, were reluctant to visit the area to drop off their phones or to pick up their hair supplies. That caused the quick thinking businessman to make an impromptu decision to take his business to the customers, and he employed a bike courier to pick up and drop off items, and the initiative has taken off, in fact, it has saved his business, he said.

“So if you’re having a problem with your phone and you’re sitting around your desk, you can give me a call. I pick it up and bring it right back,” Levy explained.

Surprisingly, the courier service adds just roughly $500 to a customer’s bill, and Levy said there have been no complaints. The courier delivers and picks up packages right across the Corporate Area and parts of St Catherine, including Spanish Town and Portmore.

Just outside the business establishment.

The courier service is also available to clients as far away as Mandeville, Manchester. For deliveries beyond Mandeville, Levy uses Knutsford Express or a recognised courier service.

“That’s how the idea came about, so as you can see, it has helped me even more since the road work started, which meant that even less people were coming into the area,” Levy noted.

The phone side of his business offers unlocking services, phone accessories, including batteries, cases and chargers, and he specialises in high-end phones, such as the iPhone and Samsung models.

“The only thing we don’t do is sell phones as yet; we’re working on that part,” he disclosed.

Levy bemoans the physical conditions on the usually dusty road surface. 

And just how did the phone repair technician get into the hair supply business? That, he said, was based on some invaluable advice he got from his father.

He said: “I was doing the phone business and one day I just got an idea to start with the hair business for the women. At the time I remembered what my father always told me. He said that in business, entertainment, food and alcohol will never stop selling. I thought about it and concluded that hair is a part of entertainment, and most women always want to change their hairstyles. So I incorporated the hair business with the phone business.”

Levy said the hair business now represents about 70 per cent of the venture, and the majority of his clients are repeat customers.

Levy boasts that he offers the “widest variety of curls available in Kingston”. These include Malaysian, Indian, Italian, Phillipino, Russian and Brazilian hair.

And Levy is seemingly big on customer service. He said he honed those skills by working alongside his parents in their business over several years after leaving high school. His father currently operates JJ Mobile in Spanish Town. Additionally, Levy said he tried his hands at several ventures while overseas, further strengthening his customer service skills.

“While working with my parents, I developed the skill of knowing how to treat customers. I always put customer service as the most important thing in business,” he stressed, adding that “I value customer service more than just the money itself.”

Where Juma Levy remains in business as he continues to strive to survive the challenges posed by the Hagley Park Road Improvement project in St Andrew.

He posited that “If you can give customers good service, they will give you referrals, and they will never forget the service they got from you, and they will always come back to you.”

Meanwhile, Levy is adamant that businesses that have suffered losses as a result of the ongoing road work on Hagley Park Road should be compensated, and he has a suggestion for the authorities.

“Since we have to pay taxes, I think they should consider giving us a tax break for one year. We should not be required to pay taxes for a year because of all the losses we have suffered,” he said.

According to Levy, business operators were not properly included in the planning for the road works.

“What we find is that they (the contractors) just come and dig up the place at any time and leave it for as long as they want without saying anything to anybody. Sometimes it is so difficult to enter your business place,” Levy said. He added that as a result of the dust nuisance in the area, he oftentimes doesn’t want to visit his own place of business.

“Every business on Hagley Park Road should be compensated in one way or the other,” he insisted.

The major road works taking place in the area will result in Hagley Park Road being widened to four lanes between Portia Simpson Miller Square and Maxfield Avenue near Half-Way Tree. Two flyovers have been constructed – one to take traffic from Portmore on to Hagley Park Road – and the other to take traffic from the Six Miles end further along Spanish Town Road. The multi-billion dollar project is due for completion this summer.

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