Roadtown Wholesale and RiteWay Food Markets

High-quality provisioning in the British Virgin Islands
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
James Logan

Since 1961, Roadtown Wholesale and RiteWay Food Markets (RTW) has been selling high-quality food, beverages and necessities in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Majority shareholder Peter Haycraft established the business more than 50 years ago. Since then, the operation has grown to serve island dwellers, live-aboard sailors, yacht owners, as well as charter yacht and villa guests throughout the area.

RTW is now the largest purveyor of foods and beverages in the BVI. The business grew steadily over the years, with the company’s first warehouse built in 1970 in Tortola. In 1973 a wholesale operation opened in Virgin Gorda, which was eventually converted to a Cash and Carry for retail.

“Today RTW has a total of eight locations, with seven in Tortola, including our Harbour Market at the western tip of Tortola, Fine Foods in the East, as well as four RiteWay markets and a Cash and Carry,” explains Simon Potter, managing director of RTW. “There is also and a second Cash and Carry on a sister island, Virgin Gorda.”

Potter oversees day-to-day operations of the company’s wholesale and retail divisions, and is joined by Peter Davison, joint managing director. Alongside a strong executive and management team, Potter works with 480 employees as the largest single employer in the BVI. Together, the team works to provide wholesale, retail and provisioning delivery services throughout the islands.

Special delivery

The company’s unique structure can be traced to the founder’s background. “Peter was the first to establish this trading,” Potter explains. “He started off with a small mom and pop wholesale store, selling product off a small boat. He was a sailor who came from the United Kingdom and moved to the islands. While he was running a boat, he saw the need for this kind of business. Since then, the company has grown year over year, adding stores and expanding services ever since.”

RTW does have some competition on the island, though the team has taken over approximately 70 percent of the market. “We were the first ones to grow like this,” Potter says. “We did wholesale and retail and we did it better than anyone else. Here in the BVI, all of the businesses are locally and independently owned and operated. Outside corporations cannot come in, so we are not subject to big-box competition.”

RTW has established strong relationships with suppliers. The business offers foods and necessities from several major international brands. In the store and through the company’s provision business, customers can find a wide range of grocery products. The business sells all the usual grocery items, including fresh meats and fish. Additionally, most locations have an in-house bakery and deli. Customers can choose from a variety of beer, fine wines, spirits and imported tobacco products, as well as many nonalcoholic beverages. Personal products, paper goods, household items and child care supplies are also readily available.

Of course, customers can stop into any of the company’s eight locations. There is also an online ordering option for provisions delivery to yachts and villas. Customers can click through the company website, selecting items and check out using a credit card. Orders may be paid in cash on delivery, but a card is necessary to put a hold until payment is received.

Looking ahead

RTW did face some challenges through the recession. Business went down as tourism declined, but the company is seeing growth again. Now, Potter says the biggest challenge is managing that growth. “There are constant challenges in this business,” he explains. “It is hard to find good employees and we also had some issues in information technology.”

Because of recent growth, the company is starting to run out of room. “We have a ban on new products right now,” Potter notes. “We have a serious space constraint. We are on an island, so there is not much room to spread out. There is not much real estate available for an expansion. Ideally, we’d find a nice big piece of land to build a new complex.”

While the team plans the next move, Potter is concentrating on the aspects of the business that are within control. He emphasizes relationships with suppliers, many of which RTW has worked with for more than 40 years, through changes and acquisitions. “Competition continues to grow,” he explains. “But we know we are really good at what we do. We know the business well, we have a strong mission and we continue to go after it. There are some exciting plans on the horizon to further develop the commercial side of the business and invest in further staff care initiatives.”

In the coming years, the plan for RTW is to stay the course. With a strong supply chain, loyal customers and a well-built system for sales and delivery, the company is going strong. Drawing from experience and relationships, Roadtown Wholesale and RiteWay Food Markets continues to serve residents and visitors to the British Virgin Islands with quality products and reliable service.