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Nothing Bahamian About Tommy Bahama

May 28, 1999

Thanks for the overview of the popular Tommy Bahama chain ("Bahama Papas," April 30). When the newest store opened in Palm Desert several months ago, I was quite keen to check out the merchandise. I was raised on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, and was eager to see what local manufacturers, clothing designers, crafts projects were going to be showcased in the stores bearing "Bahama" in the name. I was pretty chagrined to note that everything in the store--from coconut candles to island batik cottons to jewelry et al--came from cookie-cutter penny shops in the Far East.

I'd love to ask the owners why they felt compelled to trade on the Bahamian imagery without working within the local community to at least attempt to provide an authentic experience. I realize that the bottom line often dictates working with manufacturing houses that carry minimal overhead for workers earning about $7 a day, but I do think that the Tommy Bahama folks had a real opportunity to put their money where their mouth was.

I for one, and several dozen of my expatriate associates casually surveyed to date agree and would have enthusiastically supported the Tommy Bahama retail line without question had the line included Bahamian designers and craftsmen. (Frankly, most of us would have supported them had the items been manufactured anywhere in the Caribbean.) We'd have been happy to pay twice the prices quoted, if we thought that we were supporting the local economy back home. As it is, we will instead choose to vote with our pocketbooks--look elsewhere.

KIMBERLY KING-BURNS, Los Angeles

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