Strength of a woman on show…Old Harbour style

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TINA Vasciannio’s years on Earth have not been the kind of mixed bag that you will find every day.

The story of the operator of three-year-old Tina’s Car Wash, Bar & Grill is even unique. Following a mix of trials and tribulations, Tina’s latest venture into industry seems to be paying off, as she pushes ahead to an even brighter future.

Tina’s Car Wash, located at Angels Avenue, Old Harbour Glades, is in high demand. It attracts clients not only from the Old Harbour, and wider St Catherine community, but from other parishes who decide to stop when they are in the area.

But there is a unique twist to how things actually started.

While doing steel work on a construction site one day, she took a break to go to the bank to tie up a financial arrangement, when a man came up to her and told her that God said he needed him to help her.

Confused and not knowing how to react, she continued the conversation, trying to get to the bottom of what would have been the man’s motive.

He asked her how he could help her and after much bobbing and weaving, she told him that she wanted to own a car wash.

“Right on the spot, the man gave me $200,000. Just so!” the Galina, St Mary-born said. “I kept the money for a while, deciding that I was not going to spend it, just in case the man wanted something from me,” Tina told the Jamaica Observer in an afternoon interview last week.

By the following week, the man, whom she knew only as Nick, went to her, took her to a nearby hardware store in Old Harbour, and bought her everything that she needed to build the shed to house the car wash. She even used the excess material to construct a bar and cookshop on the same property.

Since that day, three years ago, that she received the material from ‘Nick’ she has not seen or heard from him, convincing herself somewhat that God had indeed intervened in her life.

Tina had run bars before…owned one too, but sold it because of a family feud. The bar business had been in her blood for many years. She would even confess that she has worked in over 20 of them in Old Harbour, Linstead, also in St Catherine, and in St Elizabeth. From her first experience as a bartender when she was falsely accused of “shorting” the day’s sales— an accusation for which the owner was forced to apologise after he had admitted to making a mistake in checking the numbers; to being “rushed” by countless men, one of whom threw rum in her face, the ambitious businesswoman withstood all the challenges.

Leaving the St Mary sea coast suburb at an early age, Tina’s mother set up home in St Catherine. Marlie Mount Primary School and Old Harbour High would serve as the nurturing agents for Tina’s upbringing, and she got her early baptism in commerce when she first started selling articles with her grandmother, mainly honey-roasted peanuts, at the primary school she attended, a practice which continued at Old Harbour High, inside and outside the school gates, to ensure that she made enough for lunch money, and incidentals. The activities were concentrated during morning break and lunch period — something that she enjoyed thoroughly.

“Some people wouldn’t do what I as a child did, but I never had any shame selling things to other students, as long as I was able to make money to keep me in school,” Tina told the Sunday Observer.

It was a sales mentality that became almost a compulsive activity, as she at one stage “walked all over downtown” Kingston to sell things, even staying late into the night, but ensuring that she caught the last bus to Old Harbour. With her mother, too, she made “good money” in Old Harbour during the Christmas season, especially on Grand Market night.

On one of those occasions while heading home, she almost got raped by a much older man near the then Honey Crust Bakery in the centre of Old Harbour, but got away and raced home like an Olympic champion. She was only 10 years old at the time.

Even after leaving Old Harbour High, she engaged in further education activities at Dunoon Park Technical High School in east Kingston, but that went on for only five months, as she was anxious to stay in business.

Maybe it was because of her several adventures in the world of work and responsibility and the fact that she was born to a 13-year-old mother that she proceeded to adopt a baby girl, whom she has had under her care for over five years.

At the time a mature adult, she was on her way to buy Cash Pot at a location in Old Harbour Glades and walked into a commotion in a yard nearby, which attracted police and a inquisitive crowd. Some mental issues were at play with the family, and there was confusion all around.

“The child’s grandmother had her wrapped in a blanket, and I took her from her because I feared what would have happened. I had the baby for three weeks and then the CDA (Child Development Agency) came for the baby and gave her back to the grandmother, but she couldn’t manage the child, and she brought her back to me. She was only two months old then.

“I sorted out the child’s birth certificate, and the CDA contacted me about two years ago to do seminars and courses on how to care for the child, who will be six years old in May. She means everything to me,” said Tina, who has no biological children as yet.

As for the business, Tina closed the cookshop at the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but maintains action in the bar, which she describes as “not an ordinary bar”, because car wash clients turn up with their children and as such things that would be tolerated at a regular bar would not be allowed there.

“This is my job. Business has its good days and its bad days. The good days are Saturdays and Sundays if there is no rain. COVID slowed things, but since December things have picked up, although high light bills have been coming, even when nothing is happening. The cookshop is closed and the bar is not making any money, but you just have to monitor your money.

“We work as a team here. Most of the eight workers are from inner-city communities, some of whom think at times that there is no hope in life for them.

“I treat all the workers equally — we cook together, play dominoes together, and we even have a partner plan. The good thing about the workers here is that they don’t have to think about robbing anybody, and I give them personal advice about their own lives,” she commented.

And what’s for this ambitious entrepreneur who is in the mood to climb further up the ladder of financial success?

“I would like to set up at least two more establishments, including another car wash. That would really be sweet. I want something I can be a part of, like actually doing the daily work. I like to see a car come in dirty and I make it super clean. I like to get my hands dirty. I want my car wash to stand out — what the others don’t have, I have. I want to make it the best business. Not everybody can run a supermarket, but I can create my own destiny in car washing.

“The next place I have I want to have an underground area, like a ramp for oil change and that kind of thing, a place to clean headlamps too.”

Among Tina’s Car Wash clients are the Old Harbour Police, and even Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western C Everald Warmington, whose heavy-duty vehicles, like tractors, turn up there for cleaning.

The company, too, has a special for taxi operators — just $500, while cars cost $700 to clean, and for sport utility vehicles and vans, the cost is $1,000. Depending on what you are willing to spend, you can get your vehicle’s roof and seats washed. Only two workers are permitted to wash engines and seats, and no washer is allowed to accept the keys to any vehicle, in order to eliminate the temptation of one going on a unauthorised leisure or ‘test’ ride.

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