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Lee Issa expanding retail footprint in Negril, upgrading Sunshine Village holdings

Businessman Elias ‘Lee’ Issa is entering the retail clothing market in Negril through the Kix store brand, expanding his business holdings beyond the hotels and other ventures he already operates in the resort town.

In addition to the clothing store, however, Issa and others are involved in a bigger project costing US$4 million.

“We are refurbishing the whole plaza complex,” he said referring to Sunshine Village from which Kix will also operate.

The project envisages a total transformation of the commercial complex located at West End, which is on the more rustic side of the bustling Negril resort township.

“There are apartments on the roof, retail below and downstairs there is the food court. It’s [a plaza] for everybody. Both visitors and residents,” Issa told the Financial Gleaner.

“Investment is US$2 million from me and another US$2 million from other proprietors,” he added, referring to the project as a partnership involving shop owners, residents and many operators.

The complex has 36 one-bedroom apartment units, a variety of shops, a food court overlooking Long Bay, and Issa also plans to set up a supermarket there.

Noting that Negril and the adjoining Green Island were growing areas, Issa said there was a need for amenities that residents often journeyed to Montego Bay or Savanna-la-Mar to access, including food, and that the investment being made by the owners of the Sunshine Village plaza would help to plug the gap.

The Kix brand, which Issa said is designed for mass appeal, first came on stream during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s for people with modest income who want quality clothing and shoes,” he said.

The new brand adds to Issa’s main clothing business, Lee’s Fifth Avenue, which is said to be Jamaica’s oldest department store. Kix is also referred to as a sub-brand to Lee’s.

Negril will host two Kix stores – Kix Clothing and Kix Sports – at bringing the number of outlets to three. The first was opened in 2021 at Tropical Plaza in Kingston. Amid recruitment for a store manager, Lee said the preparations were ongoing but would soon be completed for Kix Negril to launch.

Lee’s Fifth Avenue meanwhile is down to two stores, both in Kingston, at Sovereign Centre Plaza and Tropical Plaza.

Within the tourism market, Issa oversees the family-run Couples hotel chain, a collection of four boutique, all-inclusive resorts encompassing 920 rooms. Two of the resorts are based in Ocho Rios, St Ann, while the other two are in Negril.

But his interests span various other businesses, including real estate as, for example, the developer of the residential Richmond Estate complex in St Ann and owner of commercial property; supermarket operation at Richmond Estate; food service; and electric bike sales through subsidiary Ellesco, which operates from Ferry at the Kingston-St Catherine border but also has a showroom at Sunshine Village and an outlet at Richmond.

But as for the other venture that Issa had been eyeing in the past few years, the distribution of motor cars, the businessman said on Monday that he has “not quite decided” yet whether to venture into the trade.

The mixed use Sunshine Village complex is a strata property whose units are individually owned.

Issa holds seven of the units, four of which are restaurants and the others retails stores.

The new supermarket that Issa is setting up at the Village will be called LFA Country Store Negril. It will be the second after the one at Richmond. He is “shooting for” November or December to launch the grocery operation.

The refurbishment of the Sunshine Village complex is also expected to be finalised before year end.

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