“Calypso, can you help me?” Lloyd ‘Beeva’ Beckford, 70 years old, chuckles at the memory of himself as a tearful ten-year-old at a shoemaker’s shop in Olympic Way, Kingston.
He had put together two pieces of material for makeshift shoes. His six brothers and sisters had real shoes. Young Lloyd had missed out on a pair. Calypso took pity on the boy and fixed things, so he could go out and have fun with his siblings.
That was Lloyd’s first attempt at shoemaking. You might say this was the first tiny spark that gave birth to Beeva’s Footwear. From uncertain beginnings, the business is now breaking ground on social media, with vibrant designs — even men’s sandals. And it’s a father and son enterprise!
Fast forward to 2019. “I love how things are progressing,” says Lloyd, from his workshop in Cooreville Gardens. He and his 29-year-old son Dujae work with the same two machines that the father started out with in the 1970s, producing a range of quality leather footwear for all tastes.
In the early days, the father was determined to learn a trade. There were personal obstacles. Tough times, for him and for Jamaica. He started off with tailoring, but work became scarce. Eventually, he set up on his own, making shoes on the verandah in Waterhouse. He was the first young man to sell slippers, set out on the ground under a big tree in Parade, downtown Kingston.
Customers came. Lloyd proudly says he was complimented on the neatness of his slippers which people said looked like they were made abroad. But challenges remained. Lloyd ‘try a ting uptown’ and even took his products out of town to sell on the north coast, taking the bus with his young son.
“People want quality, and that’s what we offer the public.”— Dujae Beckford, Co-owner Beeva’s Footwear
“It was just me and Daddy,” says Dujae. With his wife out working long hours, Lloyd continued to make shoes on the verandah. Little Dujae used to grab his tools and try to use them, hitting so hard that “Him lick ‘im finger!”, Lloyd bursts out laughing. His mother bought him some plastic toy tools.
As the story goes, baby Dujae threw them out of his crib. He wanted the real thing.
“It’s a trade that I love,” says Dujae simply. During his schooldays at George Headley Primary and Calabar High, he helped his father out, making “my likkle change.” Since 2010 he has worked a nine-to-five job, but that hasn’t stopped him from making shoes: “I have to find a balance.”
In 2014, a friend introduced Dujae to Instagram. He decided to set up a business page, Beeva’s Footwear. Nowadays Dujae creates, while Lloyd continues with repairs. Shoes are sold through the IG page. “Daddy doesn’t do social media,” jokes Dujae. “Not even WhatsApp!”
“Men don’t have many choices in casual footwear. Our sandals are unique, they stand out.”— Dujae Beckford, Co-owner Beeva’s Footwear
Dujae wants the business to progress but has a good philosophy. “You know seh things haffi go in stages,” he says. “Nutten nuh easy. Anything people do easy will always crash.”
So why men’s sandals? “We’re happy to do men’s and women’s,” says Dujae, adding: “Men don’t have many choices in casual footwear. Our sandals are unique, they stand out.” He laughs at his Dad’s remark about Clark’s shoes, once a “must-have” in every Jamaican man’s wardrobe.
And the future? “I want Beeva’s Footwear to go worldwide,” says Dujae. “People want quality, and that’s what we offer the public. I am glad that they are made in Jamaica. Trust me. Made in Jamaica! That means a lot. We want to help build Jamaica.”
Father and son are close, you can tell. Dujae says, “One thing I learned from my father is how to survive — in the sense that you can have a trade, and you don’t have to depend on people.”
Check out the gallery below with some men’s sandals from Beeva’s Footwear.