Soares brothers celebrate 100th anniversary of store

  • All in the family: Brothers Dean and Craig Soares celebrate 100 years of their family business, M Soares & Sons grocery in Spanish Point (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

    All in the family: Brothers Dean and Craig Soares celebrate 100 years of their family business, M Soares & Sons grocery in Spanish Point (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

One hundred years ago last month, Spanish Point grocery M Soares and Sons opened its doors.

Today, brothers Dean and Craig Soares own and operate the store their great grandfather Manuel Soares founded.

The 1,400-square-foot shop offers everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to canned goods, household products and a selection of beer and wine. They also have a deli to cut their own meat.

“We have everything in here, fresh meat, local fish, we import a lot of things from away we have all the regular grocery amenities that people want,” said the brothers, who are also part-time fisherman and supply the store with their catch.

Being a neighbourhood fixture for a century, Soares is a place where everyone knows your name. Customers are greeted like old friends and you can usually find one of the brothers working the register while the other packs the groceries and brings it to customers’ cars. Since both brothers grew up in Spanish Point and still live there today, a neighbourhood feeling with personalised service is what they strive for, said Dean.

“Customers call us and say ‘take out some pork chops, we’ll be there at 5pm’,” he said. “When you know everyone and have been here long enough, it becomes a part of the fabric of the community.”

If one of the regulars comes in to shop and doesn’t have a car, the brothers will give them a lift home. Customers even leave messages for one another at the store.

“If the plumber needs to leave a note or an envelope for the landscaper, they leave it here at the register knowing they’ll come by,” said Craig.

Their great grandfather, Manuel, was a Portuguese immigrant from California who came to Bermuda with his wife and opened the store in 1911 selling household items like flour and butter.

Manuel and his wife had 11 children. When Manuel retired, his son John Soares took over in 1945, eventually selling it to his nephew Colin Soares in 1973. Colin’s sons, Dean and Craig, bought the store in 1998 and have been running the business ever since.

The store has survived several hurricanes unscathed and an armed robbery in 1987, which cleaned out everything in the till. The house that sits behind the store is the original location of the grocer and according to Dean, the structure dates back to the late 1700s.

“A curator come down from the US that wanted to get into the roof to check how the wood was cut,” he said. “He could tell from that it was originally built in the late 1700s.”

The present store was built in the 1940s.

Soares is open from 7am until 8pm every day except Sunday when they are closed and beside themselves, the brothers have one other full-time employee and five part-time employees.

Like others in the retail industry, the bad economy has hit them, too, but the brothers say they are doing all they can to keep the business going and their customers happy.

“We are affected by the economy but the business is still viable and we’re still trying to make it better,” said Dean. “We spend a lot of time trying to bring prices down for our customers. We’re not a convenient store, people come here to shop for everything.”

The brothers admit that it’s hard work running a family business but they both knew that this was always what they would do.

“We both work 65 to 70 hours a week, even when the store is closed we are here checking on equipment,” Dean said. “It’s long hours and not an easy living.

“We grew up working here from an early age, around seven years old, so it was a natural transition for us. Occasionally I regretted not going away to college but all in all, it’s been good. It’s hard work but it’s given us a good start in life.”

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Published Jan 6, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated Jan 6, 2012 at 9:30 am)

Soares brothers celebrate 100th anniversary of store

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