NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 19 – For Francis Mutua a nail and eyelash beautician at Linton’s Beauty World the smell of decay and hundreds of bullet holes is what reminds him of the fateful date, September 21, 2013.
Mutua who had worked at the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi for nearly five years speaks of the ordeal he underwent, one year later.
At first it was painful even to contemplate the next move after witnessing what he believed to be his main source of income destroyed, but not anymore.
Although 67 people died in the attack and hundreds of livelihoods destroyed, Mutua says the incidence was a blessing in disguise as Linton’s Beauty World opened a new branch at the Village Market and his clientele increased.
“Since we moved to Village Market I have retained my old clients and gained plenty more… business is not bad at all. When I compare with Westgate here is much better. I can say the attack was like a new dawn, after the attack there is a big difference, business is much better. I’m happy and blessed,” he said.
Linton’s Beauty World Marketing Manager Kangai Mwiti reminisces on the company’s first shop at the mall which was strategically located at the ground floor next to the escalator; a location she says attracted a lot of traffic.
On the day of the attack, Mwiti says, most of the staff members were around the mall, a few on the parking roof top were most of the casualties occurred.
She says although none of her staff members lost their lives many of them were injured and psychologically disturbed, prompting the company to seek professional counseling.
“Some of the staff actually saw people getting shot outside the store next to the escalator and those at the roof top had to jump down over the wall, I’m not to sure how many feet down. The good thing is that we thank God that no one was gravely injured, no one died! Of course there was a lot of mental stress. It was really difficult for all of us to get over it,” she said.
It took Mwiti and her team 10 months to open the new beauty shop at the Village Market; Mwiti expresses how she lost most of her staff members after relocating.
“Some came back mainly because it took a long while for us to start up this new store. So we tried to place them in our smaller store at the Junction Mall but you can imagine how crowded it got. A few chose to leave and a few remained behind and moved to this new store,” she said.
A year later as we sit in the new store Mwiti reflects on the positive outcome of the Westgate attack, despite its numerous setbacks.
“One of the things the attack has done for Linton’s is that it has really forced us to think about growth and focusing on becoming a brand in this region that is an excellent brand. And for us to realize that having only two or three store is not enough, we want to branch out and find ourselves in every major mall and or city in Kenya,” she said.