From being homeless to owning Bartica’s most popular bakery – Richard Yarde tells his story
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Richard Yarde’s story is one that encompasses elements that seem to be plucked from a Hollywood film. It is one that many consider to be the quintessential rags to riches story but if you ask the subject himself, he will tell you that it is far from that.
Rather, he would say that his story represents the struggles of a man looking for his purpose in this world. He would say that his story represents the struggles of many Guyanese who are shaping their own destinies.
Yarde along with his wife Monica Yarde owns and operates the R&M Bakery in Second Avenue, Bartica – dubbed the most popular bakery in the gold mining town. He is perhaps one of the most well-known persons in the mining community of Bartica because of something as simple as bread.
However, his story is what makes his achievements even more fulfilling.
The father of two, originally from South Ruimveldt in Georgetown, would have moved to Bartica just about 6 years ago to “clear” his head. The mother of his children passed away as a result of leukaemia and he was raising his two sons as a single father.
He was doing very well for himself as a taxi driver and prior to moving to Bartica, he became involved in another relationship. However, that did not pan out and he needed a change of space.
“I came here (to Bartica) owing to that relationship. It was a struggling situation and at the end of it, I had nothing. Before coming here I had no idea about the place because I never been here but one day I told my mother to look at my two sons and that I was coming here to clear my head,” he related.
Yarde was encouraged to venture to Bartica as an escape by a friend he met while doing taxi work in the city and since he had never visited the town, he chose to do so. Having no idea how to get to Bartica or any money in his pocket, he decided to approach his mother for “gas money” for his car and then drove to the Parika Stelling.
There, he was informed that he would have to wait for a few days before the next ferry to Bartica – since he wanted to take his car with him – or he had the option of venturing with a speedboat while leaving the car behind. He chose the former.
“I came up here to ease my head and I started to like the place and I would say I actually lived in my car because that was my home. Yeah, I used to live in my car for a long time before I could get a place of my own,” Yarde explained.
When he made the trip to Bartica, and being a stranger to the community, Yarde had difficulties in getting a place to rent. He immediately began working taxi from the Bartica Stelling to various parts and people started to get to know him. However, he was still homeless and would spend the nights in his car parked on the Bartica beach.
He would wake up at 5 am every morning and take a dip in the river and then get ready for his day’s work. When it was laundry day, he would wash at the beach and ask the residents there to allow him to sun dry his clothes on their lines.
His experience alone would have been enough to force him back into the city but Yarde persisted.
“I met a girl with two children and at first she was not ready for a relationship and I showed her that I am different. I don’t drink or smoke or party and then after a while, we entered into a relationship. After that, I started to work taxi from Itaballi to Puruni because is $10,000 to carry in a passenger and you will go with 4-5 and it is $50,000 and when you coming out is another $50,000. So, sometimes in a day it is $100,000 and once I started that and I start to make money, I saw the opportunity to start my business,” he said.
The couple then opened a joint bank account where they began saving for a business.
He always knew that the bakery business was the one for him because of his talent in that arena. Prior to becoming a taxi driver, Yarde worked in almost all of the city’s commercial bakeries – Graham’s, Humphrey’s, Bakewell, Pearl’s and Banks DIH – Golden Harvest.
Yarde was one of the sought-after bakers because of his talent.
“After I passed through all the bakeries I said I don’t need to work in another bakery and when I came up here I saw that Bartica only have two small bakeries and most of the bread comes from Georgetown. I tell myself that Bartica need people better quality in their homes and if I started a bakery it would dominate. When it comes to flour and water it is a gift from God that I have these hands,” he said.
Slowly, Yarde began ordering items online for his bakery and when all of that came into play, he then started scouting locations. He came across their current location at Second Avenue and decided it was there that he wanted to operate.
Things started to fall into place and over two years ago he first opened his doors to Barticians.
The first day he opened not to sell but to introduce potential customers to his products and to say it was a hit would be a gross understatement. The need for quality homestyle bread led Barticians to flock R&M Bakery on the second day and ever since the rush never diminished.
“The business wasn’t slow. I was surprised because from the very next day the rush was there. I didn’t have hands to sell bread,” he said.
However, operating R&M Bakery is nothing less than a challenge for Yarde and his wife. He explained that Monica would take care of supply management and the financial aspect of the business while he works in the bakery. He is currently the only bread maker and employs at least 8 staff to make pastries, clean and prep.
His regular day commences at 2 am every morning and he would be in the bakery mixing and baking well into the night just to meet the demands of his customers.
“One problem is worker up here is a big problem. I have about 8 workers but in order for my business to move from where it is, I need workers. Because every day I finish work most of the people don’t get bread and they does row with me a lot because they are demanding that I provide bread for them.
“I does work extra hard in my bakery. I am not like a bossman, I see myself as a worker. I does come down at 2 am in the morning and I does mix, mek and bake and I have people to sell, bag off and making pastries and clean. If I could only get another baker willing to learn because I will teach them to make while I mix and mek the bread because I need to protect my recipe which is the success of the business,” the businessman said.
For now, Yarde continues to serve the needs of the people of Bartica and plans to extend his business as soon as he can find the right people to train.