The M&C Story (1864 1989)
On September 3, 1864, the island’s only newspaper ‘The St.Lucian’ carried the following news item: . e. “Mr. H. Minvielle arrived by the last packet (R.M.S.C. ‘Conway’) from England with a small portion of his light goods for the new firm. The goods having been selected by himself in London and Paris, there is no doubt that they will prove suitable to our market On Sunday September 4, the premises were blessed by the French Parish Priest l’Abbe Lecailtel, and opened to business on Monday 5th.
The firm of Minvielle & Chastanet evolved from an earlier business partnership named DuBoulay, Minvielle & Co. Having bought over DuBouay’s shares, Henry Minvielle then went into partnership with Charles Chastanet: and so began the partnership of Minvielle & Chastanet, now popularly known as “M&C” situated as always on Bridge Street, the main thoroughfare through the City of Castries.
After the death of Henry Minvielle, Charles Chastanet became the sole He soon brought in, as partners, Mr. Gottfried Graf, a German-born businessman and Mr. Lionel Devaux, who had married one of his daughters. This is the point at which the family name “Devaux” made its first and lasting entry into M&C – a family whose roots have been planted in St. Lucia since the year 1740. On Charles Chastanet’s death in 1898, Messrs Graf and Lionel Devaux became the sole partners. Graf died in 1915. Lionel Devaux died in 1917, leaving his widow Therese as sole owner. She immediately entered into a five year management agreement with a Mr. Jules Salles-Miquelle and Mr. Henry Detcheparre Dieudonne de Minvielle – a son of the late founder.
Towards the end of the management agreement in the year 1920, the 19 year old Harold Devaux, son of the late Lionel Devaux, returned home from his studies at Stonyhurst College in England. He immediately entered the business alongside his widowed mother; and by 1925 had taken over the Management. About five years later, another youthful Devaux was being introduced to the local world of commerce – his name, Joseph (Joe) Devaux, On completing his studies at St. Mary’s College in 1930, this 15 year old youngster was hastily inducted into the neighbouring business of Minvielle & Co, by his ailing uncle, Henry de Minvielle Jnr. Joe was destined to become in 1951 joint Managing
Director of Minvielle & Chastanet alongside Harold Devaux both of them respectively grandsons of the original founders of M&C, i.e. Henry Minvielle (Snr.) and Charles Chastanet. According to Harold Devaux, in 1962, …ALTHOUGH THE NAMES OF THE TWO FOUNDING FATHERS NO LONGER FIGURE IN THE PRESENT MANAGEMENT, THEIR SPIRITS CONTINUE THROUGH THEIR DIRECT DESCENDANTS (1) In 1960 M&C entered its 4th generation, when the youthful Frederick (Fred) Devaux, a great grandson of the founder (Chastanet) returned to St. Lucia and joined the firm. A Chartered Accountant, he became joint Managing Director with Joe Devaux in 1969.
The M&C story may be divided into six periods ( page 5 ). These will enable the reader the more easily to follow the firm’s fortunes and misfortunes ..e, for over a century, against the background of local or international affairs in each period; and more especially, to appreciate its deep-rooted commitment and determination to serve the St. Lucian Community. That Commitment was expressed with great courage after the disastrous fire of 1927, by the youthful (26 year old) Managing Director, Harold Devaux, who had taken over the Management only 2 years before. This is what he said. the firm decided that it was too much a part of the Ste Lucia scene to be deterred by a fire; (1) In order and it soon set about the task of re-establishing itself … to find the funds necessary to erect a new building, the company decided to go out of the Dry Goods business; and Mr. Henry de Minvielle (Jnr.) son of the founder, opened a dry goods business on his own, which was known as Minvielle & Co. As time went on, that pronouncement seemed to have become an act of faith: for who could have foretold that in another 20 years (1948) there would be an even greater Castries fire in which M&C would again go up in flames? Or that in 1960, 75% of the Company’s business would be wiped out by yet another fire of unknown origin started on the premises; followed by another in 1972. After each of those disastrous events, however, M&C rose up, phoenix-like, out of its ashes, on the same street (Bridge Street) in the centre of Castries where it still stands today, as proud and attractive as it was a hundred years ago when the St. Lucia handbook of 1890 referred to it as “…the handsome, extensive stores of Minvielle & Chastanet …”