Monday, August 13, 2007

Leonty's Bar Drumming Up More Business

One of the small side projects I have been having a fun time with is helping Marcy's Parents. They own a small bar in Anse Le Verde but like most bars on the island business is slow. A lot of this has to do with the density of SPB (Saint Lucian Per Bar). In Canaries for example where the population is a little over 12oo we have 12 bars at the moment. Anyone can start a bar/rumshop. You can just set up a shack on the side of the road using bamboo, and scrap sheet metal or even palm tree branches. Grab yourself a cooler with some ice, add a few choice bottles of alcohol and throw in some spice rum and you are good to go. Licensing is not enforced.

Leonty's Bar is the largest and has the best location and should be steady with business especailly with the pool table and Hi Fi system. But with 3 other bars within 2 blocks its competitive. The tendency in St. Lucia is to copy anyones else's idea if they are making money, its systemic and not going away anytime soon.

Our goals are simple, bring in more consistent business.

Cy and his family are very open to improving things which is great start. I have found as we all do anywhere that half of the business's may listen but they throw up their hands when it comes to the work or they expect you to do it all for them. Marcys parents are not that case, they trust me and want to improve their business.

The first thought I had when looking at their business was install a beer tap to pick up tourist traffic especially with Cricket World Cup in March. The government claimed that the island was going to be invaded by 20,000 people, that hotels were going to be overflowing. In fact they claimed that two cruise ships would have to be parked in the harbor just to serve as floating hotels for all the visitors. I talked to the Windward Island Brewery Rep Russel Myers during all this hype and he wisely steered me a away from the beer tap idea. It would have been a disaster, the foretold masses of tourists never happened and St. Lucians like their bottles and with business as slow as it is the beer would have been flat before a keg was sold.

So instead we went for the 2 Pitons for $5 deal.

The key idea came from my Aunt Tina and Aunt Cass. You have to make a sign big enough for tourists (mostly 50+ =bad eyes) to actually be able to see it when you advertise it. Me and Cy and Jason a family friend built a massive white double sided sign. It was an incredible amount of work really with the lack of experience we had, the letters being the most difficult. Marcy and I tried to use stencils for that and it was a disaster with oil based paint leaking past the lettering turning it into a large red smear of ilegible lettering. Your best doing it free hand with any oil based paint. We anchored on top of the chicken stand in cement blocks and chained it to the roof.

We also had lighting added by Andy Marcy's brother, its the lighting that is in a clear tube so the sign can be seen from the road. It was expensive and we really appreciatted Andy contribution to make that possible.

Business has picked up a bit from it, maybe 10%, but not NEARLY what I thought would happen. A learning lesson, I think the 2 for $5 is gaining popularity making Cy's spot the destination on Wed and Fri and they buy more food from Leona so that is an increase.

Next we met with Russel some more to figure out how to kick up business. Him seeing us making an effort to drum up business caused him to match our efforts. He gave Leonty's a sub zero Heineken beer frig that has a huge temperature gauge in the front that hovers at -1.5 to 2 degrees consistently giving you the most optimally cooled beer. Its really SWEET. In the hot tropics this is critical, and the best part is we did not have to pay a thing. Secondly he committed to helping sponsor a pool tournament and he is going to have the bar sign moved closer and have it wired to light up.

The frig has added a few more customers for sure and the beer is SO much better. So overall I owuld say we have a 12-18% increase in customers The other frig they had barely brought the beer to chilled and when you drinking a light beer it has to be COLD or it becomes pee real fast :)

So to bring this to a close our last project was to improve Marcy's mom's chicken stand. I cut and nailed new boards on it and with Marcys help we put a great paint job on it if I may say so myself. Here is the concept drawing I made before we started so we had a framework to work from.

I wish I had taken before pictures of it before I put on the new wood and painted the first coat of pink but I forgot, sorry. Before it was really dark with ugly old wood, you would not notice the place unless you knew it was there when you drove bye. Plus I have found people are not fond of buying food from old wooden shack as much as a place that has bright colors and fresh clean look to it. We painted it up nice and bright so traffic at night will be able to see it very well. Here are pics below, the first one is after the old wood was replaced and the first coating of paint was placed. The night shots do not give it justice, they do not show it lit up or with Leona working there, it should look great Friday night.

Props to Marcy who works 6 days a week, using her one day off to help work on her moms place from noon until dark. Could not have done it without her. Love you babe.

Will be there Friday for the 2 for $5 Piton special to see if she picks up more business, keep your fingers crossed everyone.

Oh and nice touch up on the 2 for $5 sign Bobby.

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