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Small shop births big dreams - the Fontana Pharmacy story

Published:Thursday | January 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Bobby Chang makes his presentation on the origin of Fontana Pharmacy.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Juliet Holness (third from left) present Fontana's longest-serving employees with Fontana 50th anniversary memorabilia. From left are Ruthlyn Sherwood, Fay Plunkett, and Pat Forbes.
From left: Anne Chang, director of Fontana Pharmacy; Bobby Chang, chairman; Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Juliet Holness; and directors of Fontana Pharmacy, Kevin O’Brien Chang and Ray Therrien.
Members of the Fontana management team.

Mandeville, Manchester:

Fifty years ago, unfortunate circumstances led Bobby and Angela Chang to open a shop that is today an islandwide retailer.

The event was nothing short of a blessing in disguise as the impact of their business transcends the boundaries of Jamaica into international territory.

"I (had a shop) in Christiana and they would not renew my lease. I was told that the shopping centre in Mandeville had available shops and I applied for four. The owner and I came to an agreement and that is how it started," said founder of Fontana, Bobby Chang.

The businessman, born to a Chinese man and Jamaican woman learned the art of entrepreneurship at a very young age and even though one of his first shops was burnt out, his resilience, along with that of his wife, never wavered.

Chang got inspiration for the name of his business through a fountain that was located nearby and his sixth child, Anne, who was born during that time. He used part of the word 'fountain' and played on his daughter's name to get 'Fontana'.

His daughter is now the proud owner of the establishment.

Son of Chang and director of Fontana, Kevin O'Brien Chang, said it is important for the high standards of Fonatan to be maintained.

"Fontana started as Fontana Fashions & Fontana Pharmacy. After a year, the pharmacy started outdoing the fashion. Fontana was built on four core principles: Service (the customer comes first); Respect (treating everyone with dignity); Family (valuing loved ones); and Community (giving back)," he said.


A national asset- Prime minister


Having established the first store in Mandeville in 1968, a second branch was later established in Montego Bay, then later in Savanna-la-Mar, Kingston and Ocho Rios.

"We have three 40-year employees and we believe in continuity and never forgetting where you are coming from. Fontana is a culture. Anybody can open up a shop and sell but the culture is what separates Fontana from the pack and that is what we expect to pass on to the next generation," said Kevin O'Brien Chang.

Among the guests at the recent 50th anniversary celebration were Clara Godfrey, a longtime customer who has been supporting the business from 1968, and Glen Christian, head of CARIMED Limited whose relationship with Fontana began when he was a sales agent with HD Hopwood.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was also in attendance gave the keynote address and hailed the establishment as a national asset and praised its ability to ensure progress based on principles.

As Fontana celebrates its 50th anniversary, it continues to grow its connections with local manufacturers and artisans to support indigenous businesses and products. Among the local brands carried by Fontana are Ettenio, Your True Shade, Kumea, The Artsy Trail and Irie Rock.

Fontana has also kept pace with the digital age by developing one of Jamaica's leading retail ecommerce sites - - which currently has over 15,000 products on sale.