Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion luxury resort is bringing The Bahamas to the world-stage in a way that has never been done before.
Uniquely Bahamian, a family-owned accessories store that will be one of the retailers at Baha Mar, is at the forefront of this opportunity. The store, a sister company of fine jeweler Jewels by the Sea, was established in 2000 by husband and wife team, Alison and Betty-Jane Dean and sells specialty items handmade by local artisans.
The store will become a part of the unparalleled shopping experience at Baha Mar; one that is modern and global in its appeal yet offers an authentic feel of The Bahamas, showcasing the best that our country has to offer. Baha Mar will offer a curated selection of the some of the world’s most exclusive luxury brands. Additionally, the innovative resort is breaking new ground by offering upscale, locally designed and produced products sold at Bahamian-owned stores such as Uniquely Bahamian, changing the landscape and creating opportunities for local artists and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.
While Uniquely Bahamian has been a Bahamian success story for more than a decade, the company did not begin as a business idea. It was born out of the need to create an outlet for the Dean family’s eldest son, Andrew, to express his creativity and improve his quality of life. Andrew was born with Down syndrome and autism. To keep him mentally stimulated, the family turned to something it was familiar with – jewelry.
Initially, Andrew worked out of a small studio space rented from the Hopedale School – a special needs school that he attended. With the help of an assistant to affix finishes such as clasps, Andrew created high quality, handmade treasures that were displayed in a small corner of Jewels of the Sea. That’s when customers began purchasing Andrew’s jewelry, opening the door of opportunity to keep him engaged and provide other special needs people with a similar outlet.
The company, led by Betty-Jane and her son, Rory, has developed a core base of loyal customers, both visitors and residents alike.
“When we talked about the possibility of us being at Baha Mar, our vendors were really excited,” Dean said. “It’s the difference between crafts being a hobby and being a career.”
At Baha Mar, Uniquely Bahamian will create more avenues for small-scale artisans to showcase their wares on a world-class stage. The store currently has vendors from Nassau, Abaco, Andros and Grand Bahama, and the Deans are always looking for more at art festivals and fairs. According to Dean, the company has grown because of its strong, long-term relationships with local vendors who take great pride in consistently supplying well-made, creative goods that authentically represent The Bahamas.
Dean admits that one of the challenges to buying handmade jewelry is that the costs are higher than those of factory-made products from other parts of the world. However he remains committed to providing Bahamians with opportunities.
“Buying locally doesn’t only benefit the creator of the goods; it’s good for the entire economy. As Bahamians, we understand and appreciate the value of our local artisans. Our strategy is to demonstrate that value is not just in the products we sell, it’s also in the story behind the artisans and the store and what it does for the economy,” he added.
“One of our vendors, Eldina Miller, designs and sells high-end straw products made from local straw. She hires people to do the sewing and construction,” he said. “It’s a trickle-down effect. We give business to the artisans and those artisans hire more people. It’s a direct injection into the Bahamian economy. Customers want to know that they are buying from someone with integrity. They love to feel connected.”
As a result of doing business with Uniquely Bahamian, another of the company’s suppliers was able to retire from the police force to pursue his craft.
“Everybody has dreams about doing something that they love, but may be afraid of the risk involved. Our suppliers are willing to take that risk because they know that we will represent them well – we buy, we sell, and we are honest,” he said.
Uniquely Bahamian shares the values of Baha Mar beyond the involvement with social causes and providing opportunities to people from all backgrounds. The two companies are also, committed to showing the authentic culture of The Bahamas and supporting the local economy. Dean considers it all an important part of doing business.
“My parents are role models to me. They are interested in helping others and I grew up seeing them treat people with integrity and respect in their business and personal lives. We need to be able to convey that trustworthiness and the story of Uniquely Bahamian to every customer that comes into contact with the store. So far we’ve done a good job of making that connection for people, and that’s been the source of our success.”
Baha Mar Ltd.
From L to R: Mrs. Betty-Jane Dean (Owner and General Manager, Uniquely Bahamian), Andrew (Dean’s son and employee), and Rory Dean (Director, Uniquely Bahamian).