BY JON CRONIN
Queens businessman Dave Narine arrived in the United States with the dream that is shared by many immigrants—that working hard can help to achieve a comfortable life.
After working for the Guyanese government as a customs officer, Narine immigrated to Queens in 1986 at age 21. He was the first of his family to leave Guyana and quickly found work at a Manhattan laser printing company.
“It was my dream to own my own business,” he said.
A few years later, he decided that it was time to make his move as a budding entrepreneur. In 1990, he got in touch with a friend who was a franchise owner for a popular chocolate wafer from England.
“It is important here because Guyana and other islands were former British colonies and people wanted that product in the U.S.,” he said.
Taking his first big risk, Narine said that he decided to use all of his capital and some credit advances, and then bought 300 cases of the wafers. At the time, he could not afford storage and put them on the porch of his two-bedroom apartment in Richmond Hill. It took him a month to sell the 300 cases, but he soon realized that his distributor was giving a competitor a better deal on the wholesale price and he could no longer make money through the arrangement.
Store owners to whom he sold the wafers enjoyed working with him and asked if he could get other British products, such as Cadbury chocolates, Marmite, Smarties and custard powder.
Narine knew that his best option was to be his own importer. His next step was to get in touch with his uncle in London.
By 1991, Narine was married and had established residency in the United States. His parents and three siblings had come to America as well. That same year, he also finally made the flight to London to meet with his uncle and a purchaser in South London to negotiate a deal.
The following year, he negotiated similar imports from Trinidad and shipped in groceries that people from that island who had moved to the United States missed—such as sodas, candy, curry powder, sauces and fried chickpeas.
In 1994, Narine went back to Guyana for the first time and started to bring over chow mein noodles, mango achaar, cassava fruit, curry powders and other soft drinks.
By this time, his imports had grown so popular that he leased a 500-square-foot warehouse in Jamaica. He later leased a 2,000-square-foot warehouse in Jamaica and, two years after that, he was able to purchase a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Ozone Park.
Today he imports products from St. Lucia, India, Canada, Guyana and England. He has also partnered with Jamaica’s Spur Tree Spices.
Narine owns two retail stores—one is a grocery store in Takoma Park, Maryland, known as the Caribbean Market and the other is Dave’s Guyana Fish Market, located at 118-08 Liberty Ave. in Jamaica.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.