To a truly Bajan icon in Granny!
On Wednesday afternoon, during a funeral service at the Christ Church Parish Church, strong evidence was again provided that the true heroes and nation builders of Barbados are often not the high-profile persons whose activities are constantly in the limelight, but ordinary folk who quietly devote their lives to selfless service that makes a difference for others through simple acts of love, kindness and compassion.
A large turnout of Barbadians from all walks of life, led by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, gathered at the historic Anglican church overlooking Oistins to pay tribute in word and song to the late Evelyn “Granny” Walcott, BSM, a genuine Barbadian business icon, pillar of the Oistins community, generous benefactor to many and a mother initially to generations of Foundation boys and later Foundation girls who feasted daily on her tasty fare at the school’s canteen.
Although serving her boys and girls at Foundation was a labour of love spanning more than 25 years, Granny became known nationally, beyond the Foundation family, as the proprietor of the well-known Oistins eatery named after her. It was established 35 years ago, long before the fishing town became associated with dining out as a result of the opening of the bay garden,
Best known for authentic mouth-watering Bajan cuisine, including cou cou and flying fish, traditional soup, chicken necks, livers and gizzards, Granny’s continues to attract a wide clientele from across Barbados and also visitors who have returned to their countries with pleasant memories of a genuine Barbadian culinary experience to share with relatives and friends.
Eulogist Sir Henry Fraser said Granny, who was 96, started out in business selling fried fish, soft drinks and a few other items at a small shop in Oistins. Her specially made seasoning, which was a closely guarded secret, was the ingredient that made her food a hit from the inception. Interestingly, Granny’s business story closely mirrors that of Colonel Harland Sanders, who founded the United States-originated global KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) fast-food chain from similarly humble beginnings.
The colonel’s uniquely tasting chicken was also based on a secret recipe of herbs and spices and provided the foundation on which be built a successful global business. Although Granny’s is a one-branch operation and does not have the global presence or annual turn-over of KFC, it is equally a success story about a Barbadian restaurant brand which is also globally recognized.
As Sir Henry noted in his eulogy, “her pioneering spirit was among those who have created one of our major tourist attractions –– fried fish at Oistins, and her reputation as a talented cook has reached the four corners of this earth”. Granny’s success is also reflected in the longevity of the business in a market where many small businesses do not make it to ten years, if so many.
Many Barbadians may see Granny’s as just another ordinary small business instead of the success story it is. To them, success in business somehow tends to be more associated with growth into a large operation instead of remaining small. But smallness is clearly a defining feature of the Granny’s business model that has worked. Her business story, and so many others about ordinary Barbadians like her, need to be documented.
Her experience of doing business in Barbados, especially how she overcame challenges that surfaced along the way, can provide valuable lessons and inspire up-and-coming black business persons today and in the future. Another major contributor to Granny’s success was her skilful management of money, a critical area where many black Barbadian business people have fallen, ending up going
out of business. Granny’s story and others like hers would be relevant classroom material for
Barbadian students studying business at the University of the West Indies and other places. These stories are culturally relevant. When persons study business in the Caribbean, foreign texts with the names of persons like Jack Welch, Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and other mostly American business figures are commonly used.
The point is overlooked, however, that their success was achieved in a fundamentally different environment. Therefore, the relevance of the lessons they offer is limited while those offered by a person like Granny are more relevant. Her success was achieved in the environment which anyone doing business in Barbados has to contend with.
As many mourn Granny’s passing, they can take comfort in the fact that her legacy looks set to live on. Her family have made clear that they intend to carry on the business. This is indeed a most positive sign because, historically, most black Barbadian-owned businesses have died with their founders. Here’s, therefore, to the continued success of Granny’s for many more years to come!