Camp Johnson Road, once Monrovia’s thriving business community, has been overtaken by used commodities sent by Liberians in the United States and other countries to family and friends.
Before the civil war, stores with the latest fashion, including shoes and women’s dresses, were owned by Lebanese and Indian businessmen, located on Camp Johnson Road.
“Now Liberians are doing their own thing here, selling their (used merchandises),” said a young man, Joe, whose brother lives in the United States.
Joe said he has been in business for the last three years, dealing in used mattresses, shoes and whatever his brother thinks could be useful in Liberia.
Joe said he initially sold used products he received from the United States in bulk while buyers would retail them. “But I realized that I needed to be doing something and therefore I chose, with my brother’s consent, to be retailing what he sends me,” he said.
With the flood of used goods, including small and large toys, used mattresses, household wares and canned goods, Camp Johnson Road is flooded with what someone described as “whatever is thrown away in America.” On this side, it becomes business.
“Goods here don’t have set prices,” Joe explained. “They are bargained and if I’m ok with the price I let the item go.” Though he would not discuss how profitable the venture has been for him over the last three years, he said, “It keeps me busy and somewhere to spend my day.”
Although many of the business owners who agreed to share their experiences with the Daily Observer believe that their relatives in the Diaspora are doing well for them, others agreed that more should be done to ensure that Camp Johnson Road regains its past beauty.
“I feel bad sometimes to see all kinds of old materials hanging here and there. Some are thrown on the walkway and the whole area looks like a junkyard,” complained a young woman who also retails utensils, used books and used clothing on Camp Johnson Road.
“The interest in business that Liberians are showing now, as I can see on Camp Johnson Road and other places in Monrovia, will need some business knowledge to make a difference,” a former store owner on Camp Johnson Road said.
Many on Camp Johnson Road said they are faced with overhead expenses and the rising cost of renting a store while others said they hoped business will improve to earn enough income to continue their businesses.
“This is because we sell the goods and send the money back to our people in the United States to be able to buy more and send back to fill the stores,” another explained.