Waddy Astaphan

Below is a short biography written by Dr. Irving Andre, of Waddy Astaphan who passed away on December 19, 2016.

Over the past century, Dominica has produced a number of legendary businessmen, men who transcended the limitations of their generation and achieved great success through prodigious efforts, innovation and determination. One of the most illustrious members of this select group is Waddy Astaphan, the architect of a business conglomerate which has dominated Dominica’s commercial landscape for decades.

Described in a May 1997 article in The Dominica Chronicle as “a colossus straddling the island’s business world”, Waddy arrived in Dominica with his family in 1933 from Suriname where he had been born on October 10, 1923. His father, Anthony Astaphan, opened up a modest business in Roseau selling staples such as sugar, flour, rice and butter to locals.

Waddy attended the Saint Mary’s Academy where he excelled both in academics and in sports. He represented the school in both cricket and football and did very well in the Senior Cambridge Examinations, gaining a distinction in Geography in 1940. He fulfilled his father’s wish by forgoing a career in medicine which he sought and in 1941, joined the family business. During the decade, Waddy boldly expanded the scope of the business by manufacturing furniture with Dominica’s timber and exporting vanilla, cocoa and bay oil.

Almost immediately, Waddy demonstrated a flair for innovation. He introduced a simple measure for the curing of vanilla which increased production for export. Second, instead of relying on the colonial government laboratory at the Botanical Gardens for testing cocao beans, he purchased testing equipment and performed his own testing, thereby increased productivity.

Even while enhancing efficiency in his operations, the resourceful Waddy found ways to earning an income in the highly competitive business market in Dominica. He sold hams to stevedores, repaired shoes and darned cloth. He performed every task in the family business including preparing customs documents, brokerage, portering, retailing, cashing and bookkeeping.

But Waddy’s early success stemmed not only from his prodigious energy but also from his business philosophy. Growing up in Roseau, he interacted with the poor and downtrodden. 2 2 This exposure played a significant role in his early decision to sell products at a lower price than that of his competitors. It was a good business policy but it reflected a degree of social responsibility long before cooperate responsibility had become en vogue in business circles.

With the cessation of World War II in 1945, Waddy set about expanding the family business in a manner which would have been impossible without his stewardship. He opened a dry goods store on Hanover Street and a wholesale hardware store on the Bayfront. He purchased land in Fond Cole where he built a distribution centre to achieve economies of scale by bulk buying and an eight acre parcel of land in Canefield where he built a furniture factory, garage and warehouse. He also opened a small textile factory in the 1950s where he manufactured school uniforms.

In the 1960s, Waddy built the Asta Hotel and founded the Dominica Construction Company Ltd. which built the Dominica Police Force headquarters, St. Joseph Government School and the Vigie Airport terminal in St. Lucia. In 1966, he established a garage for the servicing and repair of Volkswagen and Peugeot automobiles and Honda motorcycles.

However, the greatest example of Waddy’s vision and determination was his decision in 1959 to build the largest supermarket in Dominica in an area of Roseau where there were no businesses. Local businessmen scoffed at the idea of building a supermarket in a location where Kingsland House, then a guest house owned by the Nicholls family, had stood for decades. They noted dismissively that the buying public would not abandon the Bayfront where the major businesses in Roseau conducted business, to shop in an isolated area of Roseau.

But Waddy proved them wrong. He opened his supermarket in December 1961 in time for the Christmas holidays. It offered services which were simply unheard of in Dominica at the time. These included hire purchase, layaway schemes and a supermarket section with aisles where customers could browse. He sold furniture and started a laundry service, the first of its kind in the region. In1967, Waddy started to supply propane to Dominican consumers while in 1968, he opened a mattress factory thereby adding value to Dominica’s coconuts.

In 1970, Waddy took the unprecedented step of offering shares in his company at the modest rate of $1 to the public. Up to this point, the major businesses in Dominica had been 3 3 family run affairs. The share offering was not very successful but it gave Waddy additional financial leverage in further expanding his business.

While Waddy proved to be a visionary entrepreneur, in many respects he did not fit the mould of a businessman. An avid sportsman, he played on the forward line for the Phantoms Football club in 1940 and in 1941, tended goal for the Eagle Football Club, the most successful football club in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In sports administration, he served as Chairman of the Dominica Amateur Sports Association and played a seminal role in building the concrete wall around the Windsor Park. Later on in life, he learnt the game of bridge and made the Dominica national team.

Waddy also provided significant financial assistance to his alma mater and to numerous civic organizations and institutions. He sponsored numerous sports teams and made financial contributions to leading Dominican sportsmen. He arranged for the visit of a Suriname Soccer team to Dominica in 1969.

Despite his tremendous success, Waddy never lost touch with the ordinary Dominican. To the contrary, his generosity and empathy for the poor earned his company the nickname, the “People’s Store.” He earned the undivided loyalty of legions of employees, many of whom worked for his company for decades.

Waddy continues to exhibit an extraordinary resilience, tenacity, courage and dignity that have stood him in good stead throughout his life.

His contributions to sports, business, philanthropy and civil society in Dominica will continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of Dominicans for decades to come.

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28 Comments

  1. December 26, 2016

    Honest Opinion…
    Did you take note of when this man was born…Passed away at 93,what more could he ask for..
    George Michael passed away today, 53, if you know who that person is…Stop putting down Dominica ..Stop putting down your country like that…some of these folks are living…

  2. Britinican
    December 25, 2016

    Waddy life story must be thought in schools island wide. A lesson which clearly says you can work in Dominica and become a successful Dominican and even become wealthy in Dominica.
    Waddy hard work is right now creating employment for over 300 Dominicans.

    We have so many experts, Phd’s, MSC’s who can’t get it right to create one job or do a meaningful contribution. Their biggest contribution is to call all talk shows.

    RIP Waddy and i wish your family peace in this time of bereavement.

  3. Memory
    December 24, 2016

    Let me add the piece I know about Waddy Astaphan, he was also a very religious man; every Sunday this man and his wife and their children would attend Mass at the Saint Alphonsus church in Potters’ville ,and on Holy Days of the church too.
    I always say it must be hurting him to hear the doings of S.C. Astaphan, knowing how he Waddy stood for the poor of the land.

  4. December 24, 2016

    Good story of Waddy RIP! is tony paying attention ?

  5. anonymous2
    December 24, 2016

    I guess things were better in those days.

  6. BEB
    December 23, 2016

    That man had a vision for Dominica.This is the first time hearing of his business place on the Bay Front, I would like to know what happened to that business on the Bay Front, was is sold or what ever and what happened to the share holders who bought shares in his business at the cost of $1.00 per share, were these share holders paid off or they lost their shares?
    My condolence goes out to the Family and friends of Mr. Astaphan, may he rest in perfect peace while the business continues to grow

  7. J.John-Charles
    December 23, 2016

    This is my belief “Being rich does not turns you into an evil, greedy person.” People should not carry the idea that those who have succeeded in life (material wealth) are oppressors and exploiters and thus to be hated by those who are less fortunate.
    On the other hand we are warned,
    “….If riches increase do not set your heart on them.” Psalm 62:10
    We came here empty handed and empty handed we must return,but having the Saviour here below,we will be welcomed at the pearly gates.Oh! what riches beyond compare.

  8. December 23, 2016

    How old was he ?

    • Me
      December 27, 2016

      You obviously did not read the article which says that he was born in Oct. 1923 so you can figure out his age yourself.

  9. Dr Clayton Shillingford
    December 23, 2016

    Irving well done to bring the life story of great and good man to the Dominican people..

  10. Believer
    December 23, 2016

    Great tribute to Waddy by Dr. Irving Andre .

    Your words, sir, chronicled his achievements so vividly, it makes us family and friends feel very proud.

    Thank You.

  11. Doc. Love
    December 23, 2016

    On December 20th, DNO broke the news concerning Mr. Waddy Astaphan;s death. I commented, on DNO, Mr. Waddy Astaphan was a good man, unlike his political son. Twenty nine people disliked my comment. It has been three days since he died, many Dominicans including Matt Peltier, on his show, publicly extended sympathies to the family. Tony could not wait for the customary nine days of morning, this is what he had to say on Kairi radio this morning, December 23rd. ” Matt is acting like snake, a political prostitute in the interest of the UWP.” I feel vindicated. I will rest my case for now. Like I said before, Mr. Waddy Astaphan was a good man, unlike Tony. I will allow the nine days to morning to take place before I make any more comments concerning this dangerous man.

  12. A.George
    December 23, 2016

    There are no successful stories in Dominica. All the people who work hard either end up sickly or in debt. No success story of retirement playing golf, if u want success look at Donald Trump that is success.

  13. Shaka Zulu
    December 23, 2016

    Rest in peace sir. You have done your part. We have seemed to lost that zeal to work hard be independent, and be innovative.

  14. Sylvester Cadette
    December 23, 2016

    We see the end result but I never knew the genesis of all his businesses. Thanks for the enlightenment. This shows that one must always dream big then bring the dream to fruition with hard work, faith, tenacity, perseverance and embracing others as we climb. Waddy Astaphan exuded the true essence of success because of these traits. I was told that Success is very complex yet it can be made as simply as A,B,C – Ability, Break (opportunity) and Courage.

    All of us have ability, albeit in varying measure. Today, as unlike in the past, most are exposed to varying types of opportunities. Where we are exposed to varying types of opportunities we must grab them with both hands in confidence. The complex part of success is the courage in believing, in self-motivation, in maintaining principle and discipline. This is the area I think we all must work on most in order to succeed.

    Thanks Mr. Waddy Astaphan for your Contribution. Condolences to the bereaved Astaphan family and Friends.

  15. A True Hero
    December 23, 2016

    May we honor those who improved our commercial sector. I remember Asta Hotel and the soft drink vending machine in front of the Astaphan Supermarket. The machine would drop a cup and then ice after that coke or fanta would pour into a paper cup. That was a spectacle to behold. However mischievous people would beat the machine with a stick to get drinks for free. That bad practice led to the end of the automatic soft drink machine by Astaphan. We have to perish that “greenness” disease in Dominica and discipline ourselves for the rigors of development .

    Waddy Astaphan was a friendly man and open. He gave to charity. He was not a political hound on radio all the time hurling insults or spinning top in mud. Let us emulate the father not the senior clown.

  16. Honest_Opinion
    December 23, 2016

    Donald Trump built a business today he is president, all people who work hard in Dominica achieving anything end up sickly before they die, the quality of life in Dominica is too low for human achievement. 8)

    • Man bites Dog
      December 23, 2016

      Who is that stupid bug hole call his self Honest Opinion, you have to be a workers supporter only fools like you lots would dish out stupid crap like that.

    • anonymous2
      December 24, 2016

      Trump’s daddy helped him monetarily with a gift of 1 million to start his investments.

  17. duck1951
    December 23, 2016

    Great Dominican. RIP .

    • Malgraysa
      December 23, 2016

      Actually, he was a Dutch citizen, but dedicated to Dominica nonetheless

  18. DA girl
    December 23, 2016

    Wow.. It’s the first time I’m hearing all this. He was a true Dominican. I had no idea he contributed so much to the development of our country. Business owners need to emulate this man. He went out there with an open heart and looked out for the poor and in turn achieved significant success. The word here is loyalty. He looked out for others and in turn they were loyal to him. To this day there are persons who will tell you that they shop only at Astaphans. Our Lord did say to seek him first and he will fulfill our hearts’ desires. May he Rest in Eternal Peace and my deepest condolences to his family, friends and all who hold him dear.

  19. Drina
    December 23, 2016

    R.I.P Mr. Astaphan.

  20. freedom till I die
    December 23, 2016

    Is he still alive?

    • PRETTY
      December 23, 2016

      no

    • WeNiceMan
      December 23, 2016

      The piece was obviously written prior to Mr. Astaphan’s death.

      The DNO Editors should have noted that.

      There is the same issue with the piece on Mr. Dwight Venner.

    • Living
      December 23, 2016

      READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Me
      December 27, 2016

      It says clearly in the editor’s preamble to the article by Dr. Andre, in bold letters:”…Waddy Astaphan, wo passed away on December 19, 2016″

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