ELEASHAR NOEL, one of the business owners who suffered losses when a fire tore through the People’s Mall between Henry and Frederick Streets, Port of Spain in December last year, is on a mission to complete rebuilding his booth “with help from the Almighty.”
He is one of five people who started rebuilding their booths after the fire which destroyed 12 structures. Noel told Newsday: “I can’t say when we will truly get back on our feet. I wish I could say it will be tomorrow. If I had the material I would have continued it immediately, but that depends on funds from whatever sales I get selling on the pavement.
"All I can say is that I am working with God and hopefully something will happen for me.”
Noel does leather craft, bead work and grows plants to sell.
“Nobody ever really helped us. The (PoS) corporation came in real late, after we broke down everything and cleared out the rubble. And the People’s Mall office never helped us in any way, even though it is run by some of our own booth owners. So we are trying to build back for ourselves.”
But Noel fears there are plans to convert the cleared area of the mall into a car park.
“And those people who trying to keep the place together trying to push us out and bring us back to pay a rent to them for our own spots. Right now they started building up some booths at the end to rent.”
Asked why other tenants would do such a thing, Noel said: “Long ago we used to pay shares and reap dividends, but after the mall burnt the first time, some people left and their spaces were made into a car park.
"But this was never supposed to be a car park. It was signed by (late former prime minister) Dr Eric Williams for people to do small business inside this mall.”
After the declaration by Williams, owners at the mall subsequently formed themselves into a union, but Noel was unimpressed by the performance of the various executives over the years.
"Me and four other people break down and clear out everything after the last fire, and when we trying to build back the thing, they (mall office) sending all kinds of letters for us, saying we must not build back. But we got a plan from the corporation where it stated that we can go ahead and build, so we going with the plan of the corporation. They say we have to get a firewall and we started to build back for ourselves, because we don’t want nobody to build for us and have to rent back from them, because they did not do anything for us for all these years.”
He said he has been at the mall since birth, since his father had a business there. And after both fires in June and November of last year
, he and his brother, also a tenant at the mall, began selling on the roadside to raise funds to buy bricks to rebuild and send children to school. They are hoping to get more funds to put their booths back together.