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Welcome to Best of Barbados Gift Stores

Best of Barbados Ltd. was started by Jill and Jimmy Walker in late 1975. Jimmy Walker was a successful architect who decided to retire from architecture in his late forties and set up in business with his wife, Jill, already an accomplished artist. When a friend offered them a shop on Barbadosí West Coast they decided to start a business producing quality souvenirs and gifts all "Made in Barbados". Not only would it give them an opportunity to work together, it would help reduce unemployment which at the time was unacceptably high and, using Jillís design talents, produce a whole new range of quality Barbadian handicraft to sell in their shop.

The business started off in a small way with a few select items including Jillís delightful art prints and a selection of local handicraft and other locally produced products. The stock sold well and encouraged by this, Jill developed many new ideas often using new methods of local production. The shop had a unique feel and was very popular and soon opportunities arose to open in other locations. There were also requests to wholesale and export.

After a few years the Walkers saw the need to broaden the range of products carried in their shops and changed their advertising concept from "Everything made in Barbados" to "Everything made or designed in Barbados". This allowed Jill to design a much greater range of products starting with trays, tablemats and coasters. These were produced by international companies overseas as they could not be made in Barbados. They proved very popular and others followed. At the same time, as the business expanded and more shops were opened, demand for items made in Barbados continued to grow supporting a large cottage industry of seamstresses, basket weavers, potters and the like.

The Walkers owned Welches Plantation House in the parish of St. Thomas as well as the plantation outbuildings. Most of the latter had been occupied by Jimmyís architectural office, but gradually, this area became the stockrooms, offices and studios of Best of Barbados Ltd. while other buildings became family apartments. Jimmy and Jill lived in the plantation house.

All three Walker daughters joined the company at various times and each has contributed greatly to its development. After art college, Charlotte joined the company in its early days and set up the screenprinting studio on the top floor of the old Sugar Boiling House. Sarah, who showed a great flair for innovation, returned to the business after graduating in Accountancy and Finance. She started Walkers' World, the housewares subsidiary, in 1985. Finally, in 1990, Susan joined Best of Barbados along with her husband Chris Trew and they now run the company.

Best of Barbados Ltd. reached its maximum number of outlets in the mid 1990's when it had 15 shops and around 100 staff and cottage workers. Since Jimmy and Jill retired from the day to day running of the company the number of shops has been reduced to 7 and full time staff to around 50, yet turnover has continued to increase. The product ranges in the Best of Barbados Gift Shops have also expanded to include many beautiful products from around the Caribbean and beyond, exclusive to them in Barbados.

The housewares subsidiary, Walkers' World, has grown in importance following its total destruction by fire ten days before Christmas 1999. The positive outcome of this traumatic event was the rebuilding of the store to twice its original size. The impetus to fill the extra space combined with the success of the products imported from around the world has brought a new dimension to the shop's success and direction.

To mark the end of the last millennium, the Government of Barbados decided to present a unique honour, "The Barbados Centennial Honour," to one hundred persons who had made a significant contribution to the development of Barbados over the last century. Among the hundred who were invested with the honour by the Governor General at Government House on the evening of January 1st 2002, was Jill Walker, who received the honour for "Services to Business and Art".
Best of Barbados Gift Shops and the Jill Walker name have become synonymous with Barbados, achieving the highest reputation for design quality and service, over their 28 years in business.
Best of Barbados
Welches House
St Thomas, Barbados
Phone: (246) 421-6900
Fax: (246) 421-6393
Email: Best of Barbados