In early January, around the same time Donald Trump told us he was “like, really smart”, we, the stable geniuses at Tomato Jos, sat at a round table, an idea light bulb hanging over our heads, to mull over the specifics for our grand projet de construction, les warehouse. In an ideal word, the meeting would have gone a little like this:
“I’m really excited, guys. The warehouse is going to be many things: a workshop, a storeroom, a cold storage facility, a bi...”
“Is it going to have a karaoke stage?”
“Err, a what?”
“You know, like, for renditions of Whitney Hou...”
“I know what those are! Hmm...”
“Say it, say it.”
“But there isn’t enough room for…”
“Say it, say it.”
“Okay! Ugh, yes.“
But after a little bit of dilly-dallying in the real world, we settled on the original plan, three essential components: a workshop, a storeroom, and a cold room. These were, and still are, all necessary because we have always had to resort to makeshift structures (containers, shacks with “Brazil ceiling boards” for walls, the open ground, etc.) to meet our immediate needs. The plan was in place, so all that was left — at least for the first phase — was a visionary with a pilot razor point pen, a 12” roll of white trace paper, and AutoCAD skills.
A little over two weeks later, we were back at the same table, seated like Pulitzer panelists, working our way through a shortlist of three architects. Given our size, the ideal candidate would obviously be anyone who could do a good job of visualizing our specifications for a very reasonable fee — and we found just the right person
He came recommended — and while this made us heave several sighs of relief, we still had to be on our toma-toes (forgive me), because our history with contractors in the 18 months leading up to that moment hadn’t been one of happy endings and fireworks set alight in the nighttime sky. In 2017, we paid for solar panels (hashtag RenewableEnergy) to be installed at our corporate office in Kaduna, and only ended up with roofing for the panels, a product of crude metalworking constantly reminding us of the fact that, for there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first. Bless you, Suzanne Collins. [Side note: the EFCC refused to take our case, so we are pursuing “alternative measures” to get our money back, including semi-public shaming. Our errant contractor’s name may or may not rhyme with Schnom Corvell...]
Enter Mr. K, our own Richard Rogers, the man tasked to design the cut-rate Pompidou Center of warehouses in Kangimi, Igabi LGA, Kaduna state - only without a limitless budget, and a level of sophistication that is often reserved for tourists. So, after holding talks with him at our famed table, he was ready to get to work with his pen and paper, and get to work he did!
But did he go down the same road as those men who once endeared themselves to us and left us in the dust? Or did he live up to expectations? Did he make us want to find solace in another Suzanne Collins quote while munching comfort food? Or did something else happen? Find out in the next chapter of Brick by Brick.