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Solomon: end of an era

Solomon: end of an era

Leading Bahamian entrepreneur built retail empire

The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2009
January 1, 2009

“The one thing I would like to be thought of … is ‘he tried.’ Whether I succeeded or failed is for generations to come to determine,” said Norman Stafford Solomon in a 2007 interview with the Bahamas Handbook.

As a businessman extraordinaire, noted statesman, civic activist and journalist, Solomon “tried” his hand at many things.

Solomon—who was born on October 7, 1929—died one week before his 79th birthday, ending his battle with Parkinson’s disease and lung cancer.

In many quarters of The Bahamas, the death of the 78-year-old merchant, who was once Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly, marks the end of an era.

In his House of Assembly tribute, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham noted that “behind his colourful persona, Norman Solomon led an extraordinarily productive life. He had many gifts. He was articulate. He was imaginative. He was enterprising. He was courageous and he was hard-working.”

Solomon’s first job was as a reporter for The Nassau Guardian, where he made three pounds a week. He then joined the Bahamas Development Board, forerunner to the Ministry of Tourism, where he interviewed and rubbed shoulders with Hollywood heavyweights such as Clark Gable, Harry Belafonte, Elizabeth Taylor and others.

From journalism and public relations, Solomon embarked on a career in business when he bought into the Mademoiselle store—an upscale women’s clothing boutique.

After he bought his partner out, Solomon grew his empire to include well-known brands such as The Body Shop, Tommy Bahama, Royal Palm Trading Company, Marks & Spencer, British Home Stores, Mothercare, Façonnable, Wendy’s restaurant franchise, and Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre.

“Mr Solomon always taught by example, and he pushed you to not only do your best, but to be the best at what you did,” says Tina-Marie Hertz, who started with Mademoiselle in 1979 when the offices were located on Bay Street.

Hertz, who was a mere nine months out of high school, began as a junior secretary. About 15 years later when Solomon’s then assistant retired, Hertz was promoted to the vacant position. It was a post she held until she relocated to the US in October 1997.

“You had to be a person who could multi-task, and you always had to be one step ahead to keep up with him. Some days that was difficult. He would expect no less of you,” Hertz recalls. “He gave what he called ‘constructive’ criticism when he thought you deserved it, but he also never forgot to show his appreciation by either a kind deed, or in a written note.”

Among his long list of accomplishments, Solomon was the founding chairman of the Nassau Tourism Development Board and headed up a downtown Nassau redevelopment commission in 1983. He was also an active member of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and over the years, wrote weekly columns for both the The Nassau Guardian and The Tribune.

The third generation of his family to be elected to Parliament, he served his constituents of Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and North Eleuthera for 15 years, 1967–1982; in addition to leading the now defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) from 1979–1982.

In 1979, Solomon was appointed Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly by Governor General Sir Gerald Cash. “He was brilliant politically, in business and just about life in general,” says Hertz. “He was wise, charming, extremely witty and respected by so many who truly knew him. He wasn’t perfect. Who is? But in my eyes, he came pretty close.”

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