Richard Henry is the owner of Marine Depot BVI. A Guyana native, he has lived in the Virgin Islands for 35 years. Below are his words, condensed and edited by Conor King Devitt.
We cater for all boating equipment — engines and all boating parts. We supply people like the police force, we supply the health services with masks and all those things. We supply the Ports Authority. We supply the bigger charter companies here like The Moorings. We lost business from Bitter End and all those places who were very good customers to us but because of the storm a lot of them closed down. Bitter End, Scrub Island, Saba Rock. They’re not in business right now and they were our good customers.
We see a drastic decrease in business. It’s probably about 50 percent down. This structure here [at the store], we didn’t have any damage in here, but we lost the warehouse over at Port Purcell. We lost somewhere in the vicinity of about $250,000 with the flood, the hurricane and the looting. They stole about 150 marine batteries from us, out of the warehouse after the storm. I didn’t have any insurance so I had to foot everything myself. We’re in the process of rebuilding. We acquired the floor above for our warehouse and that ended up to be a little bit of a disaster because my forklift could only lift up to 16 feet and the height of there is 16 feet, so we’re short about five inches to get a full pallet up there. I have to build a ramp or something at some point.
After the storm
Because of the inventory we carry, we were able to open back within a couple of weeks [after the storm]. As soon as I had my house in a situation where I could live in it, then I concentrated on the business. At the moment we’re working on the house as well. So we’re still in the recovery and rebuilding stages. It has been a steady stream [of customers] but not as lucrative as it used to be compared with last year. Because, you got to remember, this business is only six months a year. Our busy season is from November 1st to the end of April. After that it starts going downhill until the end of October.
We didn’t have to cut any staff. We just gotta stay consistent, keep the doors open, which is a struggle sometimes because sometimes you are short of staff. It’s a little bit more difficult right now [to access all of our products] because a couple of the companies we used deal with stateside, they’re going out of business and it’s causing [there to be] a longer time for me to access stuff. We do a lot of special ordering for people. Like somebody would come in here and they wanted something, I try to get it in overnight to them. We use FedEx a lot to get it in overnight.
[I’ve personally been] fairly okay. My family has relocated, but that happened before the storm, because my son started school up in Florida, so my wife is up there with him. But between them up there and I down here, it was a little bit more stressful, you know? No use to complain. Everybody is in the same situation.
I was hoping that the infrastructure would’ve been back and running properly. One of our biggest concerns right now is the internet. The internet is very, very slow and inefficient right now and that happens for home as well as for the business. That’s one of our main things right now. If we could get good service for the internet, instead of waiting for stuff to download, it would save some time. But I don’t foresee them doing anything with it right now. We’re thankful that we got back electricity and water.