Alphonso Foster blazes the trail despite the odds
He did not meet his father until the age of 34. He had no male figure in his life. He was incarcerated thrice and deported from the United States of America, but this never stopped Alphonso Foster from using his struggles as stepping stones to owning and running one of the largest health food store complexes in Manchester – Fruits Gallery.
From just a table with two watermelons and two pineapples that he was able to buy after pawning a washing machine he had, Foster utilised his innate ability to push through the odds and become a standard by which other entrepreneurs can be assessed.
“I moved from having about three persons on staff to now having 12 persons. Circumstances led me to doing what I am now doing, but I have always thought that I am a man destined for great things, and I can only be great if I put my dreams in motion by working hard.
“I spent 11 years in federal prison in the United States. I spent two years in a prison in Antigua and nine months in prison in Trinidad. I could not read or write before I went to prison, and I used the time I was in there to learn all I could. I took almost all the classes: drama, economics, marketing, fitness instructor, etc. My incarceration prepared me for this journey I am on, and I have never limited myself.”
Foster said that he knew he had not yet fulfilled his purpose here on Earth when he almost lost his life before being incarcerated.
“I was seeking to enter the US through The Bahamas on a boat. We ran out of gas on the high sea and were there for about five hours. We started to drift. The vessel started to take in water, and we had 21 persons on the boat. There were three females, and one was eight months pregnant. The boat kept taking in water and almost capsized.
“Imagine being on a boat, drifting, the black of night – we couldn’t see anything at all. At that point, I had already prayed my final prayers and was waiting to die, but God stepped in. The boat miraculously started and took us into Miami.”
When Foster was deported to Jamaica, where he says he has no criminal record, life was difficult as the stigma attached to deportees threatened to stifle the legitimate plans he had for his life.
“I had no one to turn to. When you are in the limelight making money, you have no friends; when you are down, you have no friends. I was at home sitting for 18 months not doing anything, and I felt like a total waste. I told God that if He gives me something to do, I am going to do it to the best of my ability and stay consistent at it, set a new trend, and make sure others benefit.”
It was then that Foster pawned his washing machine, bought the fruits, and took to the streets to sell.
“After two weeks, I was able to go back and get my washing machine. Business was doing well, but after a while, the person I leased the spot from told me he needed the spot. It turned out that he wanted to do the same thing I was doing. I didn’t know where I would go, but God provided this place, where I am currently.”
Among the items Foster offers are juices, fruits, vegan ice cream, pastries, dried fruits, fish, vegan dishes on Fridays, and herbs and therapeutic oils made from various seeds, all in a warm atmosphere.
“In addition to the kitchen we have had here from the start, we now have an outdoor gazebo, exotic plants, and flowerpots that we also source and distribute, with future plans to complete the restaurant and build an upscale playground that can benefit the community of Mandeville,” he said.
Foster said that he is moving from strength to strength and hopes that the plans of the enemy will not prevail.
“Because of the demand, I have to plant my own fruits. Through the help of Trees That Feed, based in Chicago, I have planted 500 fruit trees – exotic fruits and fruits that are becoming extinct – and two acres of pineapples.”
He added, “If I told you everything was always good, then I would be lying. Just the other day, I borrowed $2.5 million to set up a solar panel because I cannot afford to be out of business for a day if the electricity is out. Thieves came and took the solar panel, and I am still left with repaying the loan. I can’t give up, though. I have to use these things to fuel my engine and keep going. You cannot let anyone rob you of your dream.”
Foster said that his aim is to make Jamaicans healthier and maximise their full potential by first paying special attention to their lifestyle habits.
“We have to get rid of the ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality and just work with each other and concentrate on our overall well-being. I am ready to work with the Jamaican Government to create a Fruits Gallery in every corner of Jamaica. I need the resources to plant acres of fruits and herbs to not only supply our people but to export consistently.”
Foster said he is committed to his plans for national development and is ready for all stakeholders to partner with him.