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Entrepreneurs of St Vincent and the Grenadines – Cecil Kenrick “CK” Greaves

Entrepreneurs of St Vincent and the Grenadines – Cecil Kenrick “CK” Greaves

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By Luke Browne Fri, May 09, 2014

Cecil Kenrick “CK” Greaves was posthumously inducted to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Business Hall of Fame in 2009. This was just reward for a man who created and developed the leading supermarket chain in this country – the C. K. Greaves and Co. Ltd. Supermarkets. These supermarkets currently have more than 300 employees and have penetrated every household in this nation in some form or fashion. Mr. Greaves built an impregnable and unassailable commercial identity in partnership with his wife Leila. He also had a penchant for spotting and capitalizing on profitable investment opportunities in different economic sectors, and he created Greaves Investments Ltd. on May 26, 1976 as an investment vehicle. CK is a universally acknowledged symbol of success.{{more}}

C. K. Greaves was born to Mr. Analniles Greaves and Mrs. Leatha Greaves née Brooker on October 14, 1923. He lived in Dorsetshire Hill and was a past student of the Dorsetshire Hill Government School. He did not go to secondary school. CK worked with a Kingstown merchant for a few shillings per week before he left these shores in 1942 (at the age of 19) for Aruba, in a wave of migration, to look for a job. Mr. Greaves spent 12 years in Aruba working for the Lago Oil and Transport Co. Ltd.

He returned home in 1954 with his savings and opened a wholesale grocery outlet on Upper Bay Street (at the same location where C. K. Greaves and Co. Ltd. now has its Wholesale Department) in that very year. He started out with six employees.

Mr. Greaves used to travel up and down this country to promote his business and to take orders. He would then fill the orders and typically send the items to the customers by bus.

The up-and-coming entrepreneur married Leila Kydd in 1956 shortly after he had opened the wholesale outlet. Leila was his second wife. Mr. Greaves had a son (Kenrick) from his first marriage. CK and Leila had four other children in all: Deborah, Nigel, Valerie and Neville.

Leila was a great wife and probably also CK’s most important asset from a business standpoint. She was a sensible and intelligent woman who had spent many years working for Corea and Co. Ltd. She went to work at Coreas at the tender age of 12, right after she left the Kingstown Anglican School. She was a bright student from all reports and she sat and passed the Girls High School (GHS) entrance exams but her mother was not in a position to finance her secondary education. In fact, Leila had to forgo a secondary school education and find a job to help her mother take care of her siblings.

Mr. and Mrs. Greaves were able to achieve consistent business growth, expansion and development together. They had some good fortune along the way. This daring couple took the bold move of opening a bakery (the Sunrise Bakery) in 1961 in Arnos Vale (which was relatively underdeveloped at that time). The Sunrise Bakery introduced modern baking technologies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In the early 1970s, a mini-mart was annexed to the wholesale outlet on Upper Bay Street.

CK had an incredibly large dose of industriousness which he transmitted to his children. Almost from the time the children could walk they were given business responsibilities. They helped out with various tasks after school and were hired by their parents during Christmas and summer vacations. CK’s mantra was “hard work never killed anyone” and one of his favourite other sayings was “waste not, want not.” Mr. Greaves lived a prudent and frugal lifestyle.

Mr. Greaves added a supermarket component to the Arnos Vale Bakery in 1974 and thereby created the Sunrise Supermarket and Bakery. He followed this up in December 1979 by opening another supermarket in Kingstown next to his wholesale outlet and mini-mart on Upper Bay Street. This second supermarket was subsequently expanded to its current size at the end of the nineteen-eighties. CK purchased several properties in Kingstown when he was carrying out his supermarket developments.

Mr. Greaves once had a hard time trying to negotiate overdraft facilities from a commercial bank to finance his business expansion. He overcame this challenge by working doubly hard to raise sufficient capital for collateral. Mrs. Leila Greaves, CK’s widow, mentioned in a 2013 Searchlight interview that her former husband was once forced to sell one of his properties to keep the company afloat. This happened during a period when his substantive bank manager was on vacation and a temporary manager was installed. CK and the acting manager clashed for some reason and this substitute manager retaliated by trying to make life as difficult as possible for Mr. Greaves. The original manager eventually returned and was very upset when he learnt of CK’s ordeal and he said that the replacement manager knew all along that Mr. Greaves was in good financial standing.

The supermarkets in Arnos Vale and Kingstown went through a series of upgrades. There were extensive renovations to the Sunrise Supermarket and Bakery starting in 1994 and ending when it was reopened in November 1995. The corporate structure of the company also evolved.

CK invested in several local companies. He was a shareholder of the Diamond Dairy Ltd., the St. Vincent Brewery Ltd., and St. Vincent Packaging Ltd. Mr. Greaves served his country in many capacities. He was a Director of the National Commercial Bank from November 1990 up to the point of his death in 1996. He was a founding member of the Lions Club South and attended many of the Club’s overseas conferences. He was honoured by the Lions Club for his outstanding service to that organisation a few months before he died.

C. K. Greaves and Company Ltd. was a good corporate citizen. The company made regular contributions to the Lewis Punnett Home and the Mental Health Centre. Mr. Greaves also made direct contributions to disabled persons and Vincentians who were beset with extraordinary medical expenses. The company supported the school feeding programme at the Richmond Hill Government School and at other schools and Mrs. Greaves at one time had her own version of the Book Loan Scheme.

CK had a boat and he spent many hours fishing with his friends. He also played cricket with some of his colleagues (including Dr. Gideon Cordice) against the inmates of the Mental Health Centre on a number of occasions.

Mr. Greaves commenced negotiations for the purchase of the St. Vincent Distillers Ltd. in 1996 but died on October twentieth of that same year (after a long battle with cancer) before they were finalised. The purchase deal was concluded by CK’s heirs and successors who therefore spearheaded the diversification thrust into manufacturing. The Distillery was modernized and updated – an automated bottling system was installed and the still was modified. St. Vincent Distillers produces Sunset Strong Rum, Sunset Light Rum and Captain Bligh Rum. The Captain Bligh Rum was just declared to be the best rum in the world.

C. K. Greaves and Co. Ltd. is still a family owned and managed company. Mrs. Leila Greaves took over the company’s reigns after her husband’s death and she is its Governing Director. Leila is a business leader in her own right and she received the CMG award in 2013. Nigel, one of CK’s sons, is the Managing Director of the company and a technical expert. Deborah, Valerie and Neville all play important roles in the management of the supermarkets. Kenrick manages the Distillery. CK’s relatives have admirably built on the platform he left. They have made him proud. The business enterprise continues to go from strength to strength.

The company purchased the property which housed the Arnos Vale Oil Industries (and which was next to the Sunrise Supermarket and Bakery) in 1998 and converted it into a parking lot for the convenience of its customers. C. K. Greaves and Co. Ltd. became the agent of the Crowley Shipping Line in 1998.

The supermarket in Kingstown was renovated in 2000 and both the Kingstown and Arnos Vale supermarkets now have the most up-to-date equipment. Additionally, in June 2012, the company opened a third supermarket in Pembroke on the Leeward side of the island. This new supermarket is managed by CK’s grandson Derek.

C. K. Greaves and company Ltd. has a long history of satisfying its customers through a wide and carefully-selected range of local and imported products. The company has asserted boldly and with reasonable justification in one of its taglines that it has “more of what you’re looking for!”

The supermarket chain is the corporate centerpiece in a far flung business establishment that includes an award-winning distillery and a diversified investment portfolio. CK. Greaves was a business genius – he built up a wholesale outlet into a supermarket chain with peripheral companies and a wide range of investments. He will be remembered for his business success and for his immense contribution to social development and the national welfare. St. Vincent and the Grenadines would do well with a few more people like him.

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