Keeping the faith in Faith’s Pen

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For decades the Faith’s Pen Rest Stop was the go-to place for scores of people travelling between Mount Rosser, St Catherine, and Moneague, St Ann.

At that time more than 30 vendors offered a choice of jerk chicken, jerk pork, roast corn, curried goat, roast yam and salt fish, among a wide array of food and drinks.

But, over the past three years, a number of the vendors have walked away, several of the shops have been shuttered and the flood of patrons has declined to a trickle.

The once vibrant rest stop is now more like a ghost town with just a handful of vendors trying to attract the handful of people who decide to make the stop each day.

“It is just about four of us who come out each day but on holidays you will have some more people come out,” said one vendor who gave his name as Jermaine last Tuesday.

He has operated the Fi We Jerk Island in Faith’s Pen since 2003 when his parents decided to call time at the stall, Raphel Cooling Spot, he had seen them operating for most of his life.

Even before taking over officially Jermaine operated an informal food station beside his parent’s place.

At that time Jermaine was able to make a comfortable living. Now he survives with the support of his regular repeat customers and the occasional newcomer who will want a bite of his tasty jerk chicken.

But Jermaine is not giving up. He has faith that Faith’s Pen can, and will, return to its former glory.

“It is a business that can be put back together. It is a lack of development of the facility that is hurting us,” Jermaine told the Jamaica Observer North & East.

“The key thing we need is development, so anything, and anyone, who can help with the development of this facility would be welcomed,” added Jermaine as he rejected that often repeated claim that the opening of the north-south highway (Edward Seaga Highway) in 2016 was the cause of the decline of Faith’s Pen.

”Is not the highway because more people still use this road than those who use the highway, but them not stopping because the place needs proper development,” argued Jermaine.

That is a view shared by Edwin Thomas who has been operating in Faith’s Pen for decades. He has seen his business decline by more than 70 per cent in recent years.

Thomas has enjoyed an uptick in sales since the start of this year when compared to the last two years and remains confident that Faith’s Pen can return to its former glory.

“One of the things that can bring it back is customer service. We lacked customer service out here,” said Thomas in reference to the once annoying practice of several vendors rushing visitors to the rest stop even before they exited their vehicles.

“Don’t blame the highway, because it is not the highway,” added Thomas as he noted that some of the veteran operators had become too old to continue and their children were not interested in continuing the tradition of offering food and juice for sale at the rest stop.

 

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