Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles on businesses launched during Guam's Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1.
Susan Fryer was eyeing business opportunities a year ago, well ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time she was well established in the luxury retail industry on Guam, property managing high-end boutiques at a swanky Tumon shopping plaza. The onset of the pandemic, along with good timing on the availability of a commercial space, spurred her transition from luxury industry executive to entrepreneur in the form of Ate Sue's Store, a retail market in Dededo specializing in high-demand items and seafood from the Philippines, as well as local produce and premium meats. The "ate" part in the store's name, pronounced ah-te, is derived from the Filipino term for older sister or older female relative.
'A gut feeling'
"I had formulated a business plan and was working on a feasibility study, but a big part of it was a gut feeling after observing the supply and demand for the products," said Fryer, a Manila native who relocated to Guam in 1985. The products she speaks of are imported items from the Philippines, and the location that, as she puts it, "fell into her lap," is a recently vacated commercial space on Fatima Road behind the Mobil station on Route 16 in Dededo. "I am so happy with the location, it's a key component. I've been looking for a while and I didn't see any places with potential," said Fryer.
Fryer intends to stock up to 60% of the store with imported items and then also offer fresh local produce.
"I wanted to have a connection with local farmers to push their produce it's a win-win situation," said Fryer. The business model includes a robust seafood market offering imported fish, crab, shrimp and prawns. Air-freighted shipments of Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts, Goldilocks Bakeshop and other confections will be brought in as frequently as air service allows. She will also stock an inventory of premium cuts of meat that are usually reserved for the still-dormant food and beverage industry within the hospitality sector.
While the pandemic has rendered global supply chains erratic, Fryer is trusting her instincts that her suppliers will keep her well-stocked.
"I'm pretty confident," she said. "I always follow my gut feeling."
'… You only live once, you have to do it'
Fryer found and secured the Dededo location at the end of August, when the restrictions of Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 had not been eased and were crippling many businesses. While she considered external financing for her business, she decided to marshal her resources and finance the more than $80,000 needed for the startup on her own. Fryer said the business will be adding six or seven new jobs to the stricken island economy.
With tens of thousands of Guam residents unemployed, and a business climate in crisis, the former luxury industry executive turned entrepreneur offers this advice for those considering small business: "You have to study and research your products and market. It takes a little luck to make things happen, but you only live once, you have to do it."
Ate Sue's Store had its soft opening Monday and is open for business on Fatima Road in Dededo.