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ATL hails staff, suppliers, clients at 50th anniversary gala

BY KARENA BENNETT
Observer staff reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 14, 2018

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Hundreds of employees, clients, corporate giants and well-wishers gathered on the lawns of Hope Gardens on Tuesday to continue Appliance Traders Limited's (ATL) 50th anniversary celebrations at a gala event synonymous with the group's reputation for top quality.

The celebrations, which began with a morning mass at Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church in St Andrew on Friday, June 1, culminated with the company recognising long-serving employees and clients for their commitment.

Passion, teamwork, love and obstacles were just a few of the adjectives used by well-wishers to describe the golden milestone of the company which opened its doors on June 1, 1968 at Caledonia Avenue in Cross Roads, St Andrew, before moving to its current address at 35 Half-Way-Tree Road.

From an initial eight air conditioning units, Stewart soon started ordering 40-foot containers full while travelling frequently in search of new brands to sell. ATL became the cradle for a slew of iconic brands, developing a reputation for bringing quality products to Jamaican households and the liberating effect, notably for women, by eliminating the traditional drudgery associated with operating a home and office.

Moving from the sale of air conditioners, the company has evolved to offer products and services through home and commercial appliances, computers and tablets, televisions, audio, fans, energy systems, business solutions, generators, water solution systems, and parts.

Four staff members were on Tuesday recognised as pioneers, having served the company for over 40 years. They included Quality Assurance Officer Checks Nichol and Quality Control Manager Errol Lee who both joined the company a year after inception. They received their awards from ATL Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart and his son, Adam Stewart, the deputy chairman.

“I've been with ATL for almost 50 years and I'm proud to be a part of ATL. as Mr Stewart said, ATL is not for him alone. ATL is for us all. When I go out there I can knock my chest and say it's my company and I'm hoping to do more years with the company,” Nichol said in a video presentation.

Floor Manager, Parts Plus Division Keith Johnson, who has 48 years service, was also presented with a Pioneer Award; along with Assistant Service Manager Carl “Za Za” Ennis, who has served for 42 years.

“When you leave a customer satisfied, it gives me a great feeling to know that somebody is much happier. If it's a refrigerator, they can store the food; if it's a washing machine, they can go ahead and do the laundry. It gives me that drive to do it again tomorrow,” Ennis said.

Recipients of ATL's Golden Awards went to supplier Canon; Bruno Giordano of Fedders, the man who gave Stewart his start in the air conditioning business; insurance brokerage advisors Fraser Fontaine and Kong Limited; and Panasonic, for which ATL has been the sole distributor for 40 years.

ATL's 50th anniversary Legacy Awards went to team members Laurence “Laurie” McDonald, Eleanor Miller, Elizabeth “Betty Jo” Desnoes, Heather Turnbull, Jim Gaccione, Phillipa Thomas, Wesley Nichols, Clinton Dohman, Lynval McPherson, Odel Allison, Rohan Edwards, and Everton Ffrench.

Described as loyal to his employees, Stewart thanked team members and suppliers for standing by the company even in the most trying times.

In the video presentation, Giordano recalled when he met Stewart 50 years ago, dressed in Caribbean fashion with only US$2,000 cash.

“I said, 'Okay, that's not going to buy too many air conditioners but it's start.' Obviously I knew I would have to discuss very carefully with my financial people the fact that this was a young man who came in, travelled thousands of miles to get the distribution, but he had $2,000'.

“I asked Butch to join us for lunch that day across the street. We had a nice lunch and I had the credit people with me and he certainly impressed them with his know-how of the marketplace and I became more and more sure that this was a man that could get the job done. Fortunately, it was one of the best decisions that I made for the rest of my career at Fedders, and it stays with us today after 50 years and he has become a dear, good friend of mine,” Giordano said.

Guests at the prestige event, which included parliamentarians from both sides of the House, enjoyed stellar performances from Jamaican reggae singers Marcia Griffiths and Tarrus Riley.

The night also featured congratulatory video messages highlighting ATL's growth and contribution to Jamaica's economy from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, former prime ministers P J Patterson and Edward Seaga, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Larry Watson, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Howard Mitchell, founding chairman and chief executive officer of the LASCO Group of Companies Lascelles Chin; and former Sagicor President and Chairman R Danny Williams.

“What I personally admire about the ATL Group is that they seek to maintain the highest standard in all the products that they bring to the market and they stand behind their products. So I'm very happy to wish the ATL group a happy 50th birthday. That's a significant time in the life of anything,” Holness said.

Patterson, in his clip, said: “The Chinese have a saying, 'Out of every crisis there comes an opportunity'. It is something which Gordon “Butch” Stewart has not only learned, but applied.

“When he recognised that any entity dealing with trade and the import of goods in Jamaica needed to earn foreign exchange, it dawned upon him to enter the tourism industry... One can anticipate that ATL will not only survive for another 50 years and beyond, but it will grow in strength and in its own right establish itself as one of the growing corporate giants in the Jamaican landscape,” he continued.

Adam Stewart also thanked team members who committed to the company throughout the 50 years, capturing the chairman's vision from the early days and turning it into what it is today.

Bearing the mark of its owner, ATL has become a top-flight organisation and one of the most recognised companies in Jamaica. Its red and blue logo is synonymous with reliability and carries the Stewart guarantee of quality service.

Beyond its products, ATL has also spawned a group of companies — Sandals Resorts International, BML, ATL Automotive, Honda Motors, and the Jamaica Observer among them — that have also become household names in Jamaica and globally.

“As a kid growing up in the household, I saw determination, hard work, perseverance, and 50 years later ATL has taught a nation what service and quality really mean. The ATL group has become one of the most dynamic companies giving to all... and is really a phenomenal story built on people and the basic principle of service,” Adam Stewart said.

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