Young dad loses construction job, opens roadside stall

Vendor Donnell Burris, right, hands customer Adrian Adams a watermelon purchased  at his new vegetable and produce stall in Mason Hall, last weekend.  - Photo by David Reid
Vendor Donnell Burris, right, hands customer Adrian Adams a watermelon purchased at his new vegetable and produce stall in Mason Hall, last weekend. - Photo by David Reid


Donnell Burris, 31, of Mason Hall has been forced to adapt after being hit hard financially by the covid19 pandemic.

Like many Tobagonians, Burris lost his job in the private sector since the virus reached TT in March 2020.

The father of two boys – five years and four months old – lives in an apartment.

But his early morning job as a checker with the Tobago House of Assembly cannot fully meet his financial obligations which includes his monthly rent.

Burris said he worked in the construction sector as a carpenter for the last five years to supplement his income.

But with the temporary closing of the construction industry in May during the state of emergency along with the slowing down of the sector upon its resumption in July, Burris said work has been hard to come by.

Being a normally independent person, Burris said he had to find another source of income.

"I am not a person who likes to depend on family for assistance, so at that stage I had to find a lawful means to make an extra dollar," Burris said.

"The clothes business was my first consideration but my mother, Patricia Burris, told me people are not going out as much, so we decided that a provision and vegetable shop will a better option."

Donnell Burris, owner of Northside Fruits & Vegetable Outlet, at Mason Hall, unpacks some bananas for sale at his stall last week. - Photo by David Reid

Burris said his headache started when he began looking for a location to start his business.

"Some of the places I checked were mix up in family problems, and others the rent was too high for me."

Burris said after a week of searching he found a spot at Northside Road, Mason Hall, where he was able to reach an amicable agreement with the owner of the land.

Burris said business is slow on some days but is generally very good.

"Villagers supporting me, and many people passing in cars does stop and buy."

A proud Burris said he received a lot of compliments for opening the business as a young person as well as the convenient location.

Along with provisions, fruits and vegetables, Burris said he also sells basic necessities such as masks and water. He also intends to sell other items such as bread and phone cards by the end of September.

But Burris said one of the challenges he faces is getting supplies locally.

"While I am interested in supporting local farmers, the goods I receive in Tobago cannot sustain my outlet."

Burris said he travels to Trinidad fortnightly to get extra supplies, which sometimes results in spoilt goods on his hands.

"I have no personal transport and the boat is sailing half-full, so there are times I have to spend an extra day in Trinidad because there is no boat ticket or cargo space to bring up my goods."

Burris said these challenges place additional financial burden on his small business because he has to employ someone to manage his outlet when he goes to Trinidad.

Nevertheless, Burris is pleased with his progress and intends to set his roots in Mason Hall.

"Ah not leaving Mason Hall, my people supporting me and I intend to help out with little activities in the village when the time is right."

He encouraged others to also be creative in these difficult times.

"If I can do it other persons can achieve the same thing, is just persistence and a belief in what you can do."

He believes his stall will be a tremendous success.

"Yuh might pass and see meh in jacket and tie just now," he joked.


"Young dad loses construction job, opens roadside stall"

More in this section