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Godfrey’s Enterprise: A Caymanian Success Story for the Ages

Front Pages 28 Feb, 2023 2 Comments Follow News

Mr. Ashley Godfrey, (88) holds court at Godfrey’s Enterprise in George Town.

Godfrey’s Enterprise has been in business in Grand Cayman since the 1950’s.

Godfrey’s Enterprise in George Town has been in business since 1958 and is an example of Caymanian resilience, ingenuity and family values.

What started as restaurant over 6 decades ago, is now one of the Islands oldest businesses in the form of a variety store that serves the community.

Owner of Godfrey’s Enterprise, Mr. Ashley spoke with the Caymanian Times about the legacy and goodwill the business has amassed in the community over the years and how it all started.

“My mother and father - Ashley and Hazel Godfrey - started the business. Back then it was restaurant that catered to the Triple C students and government workers in the area,” noted Mr. Godfrey.

At a time when very few people of colour would have had the means to own and operate their own business, this would have had to have been the case and there is no doubt that the Godfrey family were among George Town’s and indeed, Cayman’s most prominent and well respected people to accomplish what they did during those early years.

Godfrey Nixon way is actually named after his father, who passed away in 1993 at the age of 87, and his best friend at the time and is a testament to the families enduring values and respect among the people of the Cayman Islands.

In fact, Mr. Godfrey worked for Caymanian National Hero, Dr. Roy McTaggart as a clerk and was one of the first students to attend the High School behind the Public Library on the day it was opened, before heading off to sea in 1955.

“I used to open the store for him, before then becoming a clerk,” said Mr. Godfrey, adding that people always used to tell him that one day he would have his own business. 

He explained that the first patrons of Gedfreys paid on a monthly basis, a practice that he acknowledged would probably not work too well today.

“Those days you could depend on people. Their wore was their bond,” he explained.

“….back then, (referring to the Cayman of old) to get things wasn’t easy. There were no supermarkets and most of our supplies came on a little boat from Tampa.” 

Once the Island of Grand Cayman developed. Mr. Godfrey said things got a bit easier but in those early days, the family would have to get out of bed as early as 5am to make sure the restaurant was prepared for the day.

“Locally, you could get some things like turtle, ground provisions and fish,” he explained, adding that his parents were very hard working people.

The Cayman of yesterday was a place where the toil of extraordinary men and women was not an after thought but a way of life and this reality molded some of the most enterprising and industrious people in these Islands and indeed the world.

There is not doubt why this was the catalyst for what was once a quaint, sleepy fishing village in the middle of the Caribbean Sea has risen to be one of the financial centers of the world in just three decades.

“When my parents started business in 1950’s, the prisoners could come over from the police station on their own to get their food, cigarettes and other items,” he joked, reminiscing of a time when things were much different in the Cayman Islands.

He noted that back then children would have to study be lame light and those who could afford it only had lights from 6pm to 10pm.

“This whole area was grass-piece in those days,” he remarked.

Mr. Godfrey said that after his mother’s passing in 1967, the Godfrey’s enterprise moved into clothing because it was too much for his sister to to run the restaurant.

At the time he was living New York and did not return to the Cayman Island until 1984.

The store was then extended, with much of the construction work for the new building being done by his younger brother, Mr. Neil Godfrey.

He outlined that the principles, which make the longevity at Godfery’s Enterprise possible, boil down to several traits:

“Number one is honesty and not overpricing your merchandise,” he said, adding that getting to know your customer was also of paramount importance.

“It’s not always about the money, but the service  you can render to the customer.”

Mr. Godfrey now operates Godfrey’s Enterprise with the help of two of his three daughters and says he intends to leave it to them when he is gone.

The store has four employees today.

With a highly visible spot in the centre of George Town, he noted that he has had numerous offers to sell but explained if he had sold at those times, that money would be worth very little today.

He said this has taught him a great lesson that he tries to pass on to his children and grandchildren about the importance of investing and ownership.

Land was cheap back then compared to now, he said, adding that “…you don’t just turn loose things. A few dollars at one time is nothing later.”

“It’s amazing how things have changed over the years. In my first job, I made 3 pounds per month and as a seaman, I made $US95 per month, some of which I would send home,” he recalled.

He said he hopes Godfreys Enterprise continues when he is gone and hopes to pass it on to his children.

An avid church parishioner at the Elmslie Memorial Church in George Town, Mr. Godfrey explained that faith had played a major role in his life and during his time in the Church, he had served as a Sunday school teacher and sang on the choir.

“The Church has helped me a great deal and has shaped my life over the years,” he said.

“My Grandmother would have prayer every morning at 6am and you couldn’t leave the house if you didn’t participate in that first.”

Chores were also a part of early life for Mr. Godfrey and he said these had to be done before and after school. These consisted of pulling grass and weeds and ‘backing water’, as it was referred to by older Caymanians.

Now 88 years, old Mr. Godfrey is still working and said he enjoys every minute of it.

“I’ve slowed down a bit, but don’t plan on retiring. Ss long as God gives me the strength and as long as I can contribute to society and help someone, I will do it,” he affirmed. 

He explained that a small part of what keeps the store going is that they try to get the things that other people do not carry any more.

During his time in business, Mr.Godfrey has also kept the books at the store, a skill that he noted was self-taught.

“Once you makeup your mind, perseverance is the key. Try and try and you will succeed,” he espoused.

Comments (2)

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Arden Parsons

28 Feb, 2023

As a Triple "C" School student I can recall the many delicious lunches we ate there at the restaurant. The stewed beef, chocolate cake and fudge candy was the best that I have ever eaten. If I remember correctly it cost approximately 3 Shillings and Six pence-35 cents today- for our lunches. My mother paid the bill at the end of the month when she got her "allotment" from my father's wages at sea. I am sure a lot of other Triple "C" students share these memories and we all wish the Godfrey's family all the best and Blessings for their wonderful work.

John Ebanks

28 Feb, 2023

I remember going to Center School George Town on Mr Craddock truck with a few good friends like Gilbert Mclean Churchill Connolly Cresswell Powery Ludlow Buckridge and a lot more island Wide, my father worked at H.O.Merren he had an account set up for me at Godfrey's restaurant the food was delisious especialy the chocolate cake and ice cream, my father was good friends with the Godfreys