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Entrepreneurs of St Vincent and the Grenadines – Fred Joseph Dare

Entrepreneurs of St Vincent and the Grenadines – Fred Joseph Dare

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By Luke Browne Fri, May 16, 2014

Fuad Jossif Daher migrated to the West Indies from Lebanon for economic reasons in the 1920s and changed his name to Fred Joseph Dare. He was following in a migratory tradition that was established by his elder brothers and he took up residence with two of them in Trinidad. Fred lived and worked in Trinidad and Tobago with these brothers for about nine years and then he moved to St Vincent and the Grenadines for the rest of his life.{{more}}

Mr Dare was the first native of either Syria or Lebanon to gain the pre-Independence equivalent of Vincentian citizenship. Fred Dare was therefore the founding father of what is now a very significant and vibrant Arabic community in this nation. Fred showed that it was possible for people of Middle Eastern origin to do well in business and in life in this small country that was far removed from the land of their birth. He set a powerful example and paved the way for other migrants from the region of his motherland to pursue a bright future in Hairouna.

Syrians and Lebanese are all loosely called Arabs. However, strictly speaking, Fred was of Phoenician ethnicity. He was born in Lebanon in the early twentieth century when that country was under Turkish occupation. The date of his birth was January 3, 1908 according to somewhat doubtful official records. The Vincentian newspaper suggested on October 2, 1992 (shortly after Mr. Dare died) that he may have been slightly older than the official records suggest.

Fred Dare grew up in the small Lebanese village of Bchamoun which, in time, became the first village to raise the Lebanese flag after that country’s Independence in 1943. This occurred long after Fred had left. Fred was the last child in a large family – his parents had seven sons and three daughters. The Lebanon of Fred’s youth was characterized by religious persecution. Fred received his early education in Lebanon and Egypt. He migrated to Trinidad when he was about 19 years old in search of economic opportunities and prosperity.

The ambitious and hard-working young man got into trading with his brothers in Trinidad. He quickly got the hang of things. He was also apparently quite handsome and Trinidadians used to say that he resembled a famous Mexican actor whose name was Ramon Navarro. Fred relished the comparison. After a while, Mr. Dare became restless in Port-of-Spain and decided to pursue new horizons. He made a brief initial trip to this country shortly after the 1935 riots and he returned here on a permanent basis around 1937.

Fred adapted to the Vincentian lifestyle very well and became fully integrated into the society. He quickly wove himself into the social and economic fabric of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mr. Dare presumably used his savings from Trinidad to buy a motor car after he arrived in St. Vincent. There were about six cars on the island at the time. He was a “suitcase-peddler” who went around the country from house-to-house selling clothing material. North Leeward was inaccessible by road and so he travelled there by boat and often spent the night at the Bowman’s family home in Rose Bank.

Fred got a foothold and, in 1938, he opened a textile store in the Pelican Hotel. He was a tenant. Mr. Dare sold a special type of non-washable cloth that was known as “tray-lay-lay” and which was used to make sheets, mattress covers, pillow cases, clothes and almost every other living thing. Fred Dare steadily climbed the ladder of success. He began doing big business and he moved into his own store on Middle Street in the 1940s. Mr. Dare sold a wide range of items (including teacups, saucers and mats) in addition to textiles. He was the agent for Triumph Motor Cars, a popular foreign beer and several cruise ships.

Mr. Dare’s customers were satisfied with the quality and affordability of his merchandise. One such customer, who is now a 75 year old vendor from Penniston by the name of Caroline Burnett, recalled that Fred gave them good bargains and generous discounts. Mrs. Burnett, who sells agricultural produce from a tray just outside KFC-Uptown, said that she—and about 10 of her friends—used to trust goods from Fred Dare by the fortnight and that he never used to “treat [them] bad.” She went on to say that “when December came Mr. Dare always gave [them] something for the holidays.” The longstanding vendor declared that “Fred Dare was the best salesman in town.” Fred J. Dare provided holiday jobs for many Vincentian schoolchildren, including one Theodore Browne.

Fred bought the Murray’s Road property upon which he built his home in 1947. This property was acquired by the government after Fred’s death and the house was converted into the National Archives. Fred Dare married Stella DaCosta of Frenches Gate. Stella came from a wealthy and influential family of Portuguese descendents that owned the Cumberland Estate.

The way in which Fred Dare was able to fit into Vincentian society is quite remarkable. Not only was Mr. Dare a member of the Kingstown Club, he was also a member of the Kingstown Board when it was an elected body. It is notable that a man from Beirut became a prominent member of the Kingstown Board. That speaks for itself and tells the story of the extent of his cultural assimilation.

Mr Dare imbued himself with local values and adopted our cultural traditions. He participated in Carnival for which he must have no doubt developed an appreciation during his time in Trinidad. Mr Dare even served on the Carnival Committee which subsequently evolved into the Carnival Development Corporation.

Fred was the Chairman of the Tourist Board when the tourism industry here was in its infancy and he was responsible for a number of tourism development initiatives. He made the arrangements for Queen Elizabeth’s visit to St. Vincent in 1966. Additionally, Mr. Dare was the Chairman of the Hospital Board for about 17 years.

Fred began a long term involvement in community work almost from the very moment he arrived in SVG. Fred’s diminutive figure housed a big heart and he supported many charities and sports organisations. Mr. Dare made frequent donations to government institutions over a long period of time. He was simultaneously a legendary “big shot” and a regular guy who simply enjoyed life and living. Mr. Dare was awarded the MBE in 1969 for his sterling contribution to the development of his adopted homeland.

Stella Dare predeceased her husband. She died in March 13, 1976 at 70 years old. Fred remarried almost exactly ten years later on March 15, 1986. This time, he took a bride from his native Lebanon – her name was Mona. Milton Cato (after he left office) was Fred’s Best Man for this second wedding. Sir Sydney GunMunroe was Mona’s Father Giver and Sheila Douyon was the Maid of Honour. The wedding was a star-studded event.

Fred apparently had some interesting daily habits according to Mona. For instance, he ate two eggs every day in the morning – one raw (either with sherry or in eggnog) and one half-boiled with pepper and salt. Mona Dare also revealed that her husband had a sweet tooth and typically had dessert about five times per day.

Fred Dare died on September 30, 1992 and left his business legacy in Mona’s capable hands. Fred J. Dare and Co. Ltd. was formally incorporated after Fred’s death on August 30, 1994. The company is now jointly owned and managed by Mona Dare and her brother Anis Issa. It has three operational stores in Kingstown (a fourth store was gutted by fire a few years ago and is undergoing repairs) and just over 30 employees.

Mr. Dare helped many of his kinsmen and kinswomen come to this country and set up themselves according to a business model that Fred himself had established and by which he moved from the status of a suitcase peddler to store ownership. Today, there is a large number of Vincentians who are either of Syrian or Lebanese origin or descent. These individuals benefited from Fred Dare’s foundational work and their own sacrifices. They had an excellent role model in a man who was born in Lebanon and who was a great Vincentian.

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