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Story #36: Moved to St. Croix and Leaving Story

(Submitted in 2005) House in north Georgia, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage in a beautiful new sub division...$145,000

Trip to the Virgin Islands, rental car, hotel, dining and unbelievable weather without worrying about the costs...$2,500

IDEA of relocating to the Virgin Islands, living in paradise and no problems...$5,000

The look on your face when your realize you made the BIGGEST mistake of your life moving to the VI...PRICELESS!

While everyone tries to convince themselves of WHY they need to live in the VI, others have learned, some the HARD, EXPENSIVE WAY. But the realities of this area are quickly proven much different than the PMV (pre move visit). Some have packed up and moved on, many are stuck and struggling, and yet, some are still new and have not learned yet...but, keep looking over their shoulders, because sooner or later, the VI will get you.

This is my summary and you can probably guess that I am SOUR on this area...And for good reason.

I came down here in the early nineties and started and operated a successful business. I met my beautiful wife (she is from St. Lucia and her sister and parents live on St. Croix) and we moved back to the US and did well. I was NEVER impressed with St. Croix, but we did well.

Over the years my wife traveled back and forth to visit her family, not me…no interest. Then, about 3 years ago, my brother-in-law started complaining about the amount of theft and employee headaches in his "Local" style bar and grill business on St. Croix…he has a GREAT reputation on the island for the best chicken around…it is slow cooked on an open grill with one hell of a sauce!

Then one day, my wife's sister (my brother-in-laws wife) asked my wife if we would be interested in managing the place to help him out, basically, partner up…they liked the way I ran my store when there and know I am not tolerant of lazy employees…they wanted someone to put their foot down. At first, I blew it off. Then, my wife's father became seriously ill with a tumor and her mother experienced a stroke. I thought that maybe her being around here parents until they pass, would be good, AND, if I could do business and earn money, it would be that much better.

So, the discussions and the trips began to figure out a game plan. We decided put a little AMERICAN polish on the business – do the basics like put up a nice sign with a cute theme…something like SQEETERZ would be cool. Make employees follow rules, hours of work, be customer oriented…BUT KEEP THE ISLAND CHARM, but it MUST operate more like a real business instead of a hobby.

We found a great place, fully equipped and ready to go. (even located 2 others just in case). Had a contract on it and decided to do it. So, I visited the Health department, got approvals and a list of little things to do after they inspected two places for us.

We packed up, got rid of the house, and made the move.

So, we move down and the guy we were renting from decides to raise the monthly rent from $2500 to $3000. Also, he wants to get an additional $15k deposit for the equipment. All this after we agreed to pay $1k a month MORE to use the equipment. This was a written agreement. (no, I am not going to sue him and spend $15k to get nothing!) So, this threw us off balance and would drain us of the extra cash needed to build up, fix up and advertise and so on.

So, we go to "place 2". We are ready to go and the Health department says the rules changed. (actually, passed last November, but didn't say anything on first visit when they approved the first place). NOW, the rules state that we need to have 2 bathrooms and handicap access in any sit down place. The kitchen must be tiled. The kitchen must be lined in stainless steel if the walls are cement. (Gee, cement buildings in the VI, what are those chances?) Need to install stainless counters, stainless steel sinks, and a stainless hood for cooking - no longer can a place grill food out in the open, everything must be behind the stainless walls in the kitchen!!!

So, our little adventure just turned into a nightmare. But, no problem, I will go to place 3 and open a little take out joint and do our theme on a smaller level…just do some minor fixing, updating and take it one day at a time…ya think? Guess what, now all "take out places" MUST be updated also!

Now, before anyone says I should have done this and that, I know…but the whole thing came about as a simple, island thing that should be easy to do without spending all the money traveling back and forth to make sure it is 100% before packing up…BUT, my brother in law has been doing business here for 30 years, so I figure, NO PROBLEM…I got him to work through the issues if needed.

OK, so…I expired all my ideas and now come to realize that we are just going to have to put a few bucks into my brother-in-laws place and kick it up a notch and go from there. GUESS WHAT...the inspectors got wind of what we were going to do and stopped by to visit.

Open air grilling is all over the VI, it's affordable, tastes great, and has a nice charm about it (these are my opinions). Many places still have outdoor bathrooms and no real kitchen (I am referring to local style places, not those at hotels and the boardwalk). Most probably can't afford to do it by the book.

So what does this mean? Either they will crack down and run most of them out of business, or they don't want someone like me operating here – and guess what, I doubt they will be closing anyone down anytime soon as nobody is aware of these issues!

So, the Virgin Islands, once again sucks the living hell out of "ANOTHER" business possibility (this is common to those who keep up with the news here). It is incredible the attitudes of the health inspectors who just say; it's not us, we don't make the rules, we just enforce them…BUT THEY DON'T, well, actually they do, VERY SELECTIVELY!

Of course, I still have the "other" issues.

My personal opinion is that safety is more important than the weather and view. Also, It makes me sick to see the trash littering the area and nobody trying to clean it up.

I drive through town and so many businesses are disappearing, buildings are empty, the streets are filthy, bums falling over drunk, sleeping on the walkways and begging for a QUART…the buildings are falling over, the stench in some areas can make you vomit…walk off the boardwalk and the trash and septic dumps right there (some call it island charm)… why don't they fix it?

There are no incentives to bring businesses in or to keep them. And every political leader knows this stuff…GO FIGURE.

That is an example why I am sour.

Good luck to anyone who decides the VI is the place to be…just do your homework and weigh everything out.

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