BUSINESS IN FOCUS: H.H.V. Whitchurch & Company Limited – a Dominican Centenarian

The Royal Bank of Canada © 1950’s, Junction Old Street and Kennedy Avenue (formerly Old Street). Originally Hotel de Paz in 1910. It currently houses Whitchurch IGA Supercenter on the Ground Floor. The First Floor houses the Travel Agency and the Main Office (Shipping & Tours, Insurance, Accounts, Sales).

H.H.V. Whitchurch & Company Limited was founded in Roseau, Dominica in 1910 by Herbert Harry Vivian Whitchurch.  Today, it is a private limited liability company, owned by the Aird family.

Harry Herbert Vivian Whitchurch was an estate manager in Dominica.  Born into a shop-keeping family in Southampton, England on November 15th 1869, Whitchurch came out to Dominica to manage various estates, including Woodford Hill, where he is said to have laid out Dominica’s first, and so far only, nine-hole golf course.

In 1910 Whitchurch went into business in Roseau, gradually building up a general and commission merchant enterprise, insurance, automobile and shipping agency, and dealership in dry goods, groceries and fuel.  Residents of Roseau always remember that Whitchurch as having the first “supermarket” in Dominica.  Appropriately, 100 years later, Whitchurch “IGA” Supercentre is a focal point of Dominica’s society.   So much so that one year, a young child on vacation for the first time in the United States of America with his family when pulling up to an “IGA” store in the U.S.A. promptly turned to his mother stating: “Mummy, see Whitchurch!”

Whitchurch continued expanding beyond these parameters and was made the agent for Lloyds of London (Insurance) in 1926.

Herbert Whitchurch and his family lived at Ross Cottage at Morne Bruce, Roseau.  One of his two daughters, Gwendolyn, married James Otto Aird, originally from Guyana (formerly British Guiana), who arrived to work in Dominica after serving in World War I.  Aird became the managing director of the Company on the event of Whitchurch’s death in 1946.  From that date forward, Whitchurch’s descendants have managed the Company.

Building purchased from L. Rose & Co. Currently houses MFS, Western Union and DHL Services, Junction Old Street and Kennedy Avenue (Formerly New Street) © 1960’s.

The company opened its doors as a grocery store operating out of an area of what was then “Hotel de Paz”.  As operations grew and the company’s portfolio expanded, they operated from buildings on Old Street until total destruction by fire in 1961.  As a result, the company purchased the old L. Rose & Co. Building on New Street (now Kennedy Avenue).  Whitchurch & Company sub sequentially sold this in 1984 and then repurchased and restored it in 2002.  Currently the agencies for Western Union, DHL and the company Millennium Freight Services (MFS – Agents for CMACGM, Econocaribe and Aeropost Network) operate from these premises.

After the ‘61 fire, the Old Street property was rebuilt and expanded, re-opening as a shopping centre in 1975, while new offices were completed in 1984.  Along with J.A.S. Garraway, (1828), A.A. Baron & Co., (1896), and L.A. Dupigny & Co. Ltd., (1918), H.H.V. Whitchurch & Co. Ltd. is among the longest serving merchant companies still operating in Dominica.

Over the last century, Whitchurch has provided Dominica with goods and services, which have assisted in the development of the nation.  As we celebrate a century of operation, we proudly boast a multifaceted portfolio ranging from duty free shopping, shipping,  insurance, Whitchurch Travel Agency, American Express Services, Whitchurch IGA Supercentre, Food Distribution and Wholesale, tours, Whitchurch Portsmouth, agents for cruise ships, Western Union Money Transfer, DHL, SOL EC Ltd., alongside sister companies Ground Handlers Limited and Millennium Freight Services.  Whitchurch celebrates 100 years of providing not only goods and services to the people and visitors alike of Dominica, but also presently employs over 235 Dominicans.

Over the years, Whitchurch has consulted its simple, straightforward mission statement in maintaining its course direction, giving back to the community at large through various sponsorships, donations and involvement in educational, socio-economic and historical programs across the island.

“H.H.V. Whitchurch and Company Limited is a Dominica Company committed to providing products and services that enhance the quality of life of all our customers and the people of Dominica.

High quality goods and services
Affordable prices
Good customer service”

On November 15th, the birth date of Harry Herbert Vivian Whitchurch, the official celebration of Whitchurch’s Centenary Year is to be recognised.

As Whitchurch celebrates its Centenary Year it continues to bring its mission to life, expanding its outreach, to offer its services and goods to Dominican society.

About Business In Focus

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23 Comments

  1. STAR
    January 13, 2011

    All the best to this company in the future. You have employed so many Dominicans and gave them the opportunity to feed and take care of their families. Thank You!

  2. Anonymous
    September 3, 2010

    joe aird and brown?

  3. diskette
    September 2, 2010

    The company had some real good trustworthy employees in both top managment and line staff over the many years; the vision of the company was clear in the days that I worked for the company as a partimer my mom being fully employed.

    The persons in Ma Tavenier, Mr Warner, Mrs. Corriette the first lady woman manager of a big supermarket in Dominica ; Mr. Delauney that tall respected financial comptroller at the time and persons who are still there like Mr. Jeffers, Mr Hodge and so on. The management team of the day never made you feel insignificant never treated you as if you did not matter; Mr. Aird and his team made you feel that you worked not for them but with them to bring a better and brighter future and total satisfaction to the customer to the client first and foremost; The late Allan JnoBaptiste these guys were all so meticulous in their duties;

    Hats of to the team and it is my wish that those taking over sooner or later will continue the lagacy of those gone and bring the company see 200yeras and more.

    God Bless.

  4. Reason
    September 2, 2010

    “Anonymous”….You say “This was in the time of slavery!”…… come on, slavery ended in 1838 and HHV Whitchurch started in 1910. Do the math and you will realize that 1910 was 72, seventy two years after slavery.

    And as for “Recorder”….I do not know where you got that mixed up history from…. read the article and you will realise that J O Aird was from Guyana and came to Dominica and he fought in the FIRST World war, not the second.

  5. curious
    September 2, 2010

    Mr Aird, may good bless you richly, just keep praying fervently for your 2 sons and your daughter, you know your shoes is a big one to fill. A job well done, this is management in action.

  6. Anonymous
    September 2, 2010

    Good article. Wish there was a ‘history of Dominica’ section on DNO. (separate from the business features of course, i understand DNO staff need to make a living so businesses have to advertise first). Well done Whitchurch. I have never known anyone to say anything bad about this supermarket.

  7. Anonymous
    September 1, 2010

    This a great peice of such rich history I never heard of before! Gush, this was in the time of slavery! I am proud nevertheless.

  8. September 1, 2010

    Bravo to H.H.V.Witchurch & Company Limited, for reaching the milestone of 100 years.

    I was so glad to find out that you were still there and with great authority as well, upon returning to Dominica from Toronto after 31/2 decades. And yes, I was pleased to shop at your store, especially that your acceptance of technology made it a better convenience. For example when I was in Dominica two years ago, Nassif was not accepting credit cards, but you did.

    I dropped my purse, with everything I needed in it, at your store; someone picked it up and give it to your management team, and they secured it for me. Up until today I cannot find words to express my gratefulness to you and management team for that sincere deed.

    My mom told me that she is a regular customer of yours, and that some of your managing team know her personally. I express appreciation and wishes on her behalf, for the continuous best, of everything for you in the future.

  9. CHIEF SCOUT COMMISSIONER
    September 1, 2010

    J.O. Aird of the Whitchurch Co. was among those who introduced Scouting to Dominica in 1929. It is noteworthy that the Company and members of the Aird family still actively support the movement. The Dominica Scout Association therefore unreservedly congratulates that great company on its 100th Anniversary… and as an aside, having been privileged to work for that company, I can say that Mr. Aird is a fair man and a skilled administrator. Indeed, Dominica has been very well served.

  10. September 1, 2010

    Now give us the history of J Astaphans & co. there might be some big surprises. Waiting with baited breath.

  11. Cyril Volney
    September 1, 2010

    A shining light in an otherwise dark night! So few companies maintain service and reputation standards.

  12. M
    September 1, 2010

    Congratulations on your 100th anniversary! Keep on doing such a great job.
    I just wish i could have seen a bit more pictures of the whitchurch building (past and present), but i did enjoy this wonderful article.

    once again congrates!

  13. recorder
    September 1, 2010

    i thought that joe aird and brown were recruited by britain and worked at public works . when war broke out they returned to england. after the war they returned to dominica and aird got ajob at hhvw and brown was hired by royal bank.check the facts.

  14. Cassandra
    September 1, 2010

    The success of this company and the esteem in which it is held shows that good management comes from the top. A lot of us can learn a thing or two from them. May they continue to thrive in their second century of business.

  15. wey-hey...
    September 1, 2010

    Great Article!

  16. congrats
    September 1, 2010

    @pamela: its good that you are part of such a great company

  17. pamela
    September 1, 2010

    Indeed a wonderful place to work, the length of years of some of the employees says it all. Someone would have to give me more than the lottery to make me leave. I feel so priviledged to work for a Company with such great regard for the law, such great regard for doing things by the book.
    Congratulations are in order!!
    happy employee

  18. forever whitchurch customer
    September 1, 2010

    @joe doe: I agree 100%.. this company has provided employment for many dominicans and for a century. this is a noteworthy achievement. this company is also known for less turnovers of staff. the company has a large amount of staff working there for many many years, which shows the company has a good human resource management reputation, compared to other companies it size who continue to have a high staff turnover because of low wages, inexperienced staff and poor attitude from its owners towards employees…. congrats whitchurch and regardless of who opens its doors dominicans will always be forever grateful

    forever whitchurch customer

  19. wisdom
    September 1, 2010

    Great news today. As a former employee of the company, coodoes from the USA. I celebrate with you as a company, and do so also with (the people of Dominica all whitchurch customers) wiithout which there could be no company. I remember entering and working there for the first time, it was almost as if I was in a different world, the company was noted for it’s directorship of being clean very clean.
    Once again I congratulate you great people on an awesome achievment.

  20. Fairplay
    September 1, 2010

    Good Management!!!

  21. joe doe
    September 1, 2010

    i do recommend this company for Dominicas highest award of honour for its contribution to the social and economic development of our people. Well done H.H V.Whitchuurch especially all its former and current employess. Without them success could not have been possible.

  22. Well Done
    September 1, 2010

    Indeed. I do not believe that I have ever heard anyone utter any negative statement about the.

  23. Deoborah
    September 1, 2010

    Congratulations to H.H.V. Whitchurch & Company Limited on your 100th Anniversary, you have served the people of Dominica well.

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