Planning to move this summer
I've been lurking around here for a bit. You all are really great and so well informed and so well mannered! Yes, all sense of propriety has gone out the window here on the mainland which is just a very small component of the myriad reasons I'm leaving. End rant.
In the last 6 months I've:
Scouted locations in Hawaii twice, Maui and Big Island. Planned on Kauai, but a friend of mine there confirmed my worst fears regarding the economy there.
Nearly bought a restaurant in Manzanillo Mexico (just south of Pto Vallarta with much better weather and people), my family had seizures and my dad threatened to disown me. Luckily, the owner understood and we are friends to this day.
These days I keep addressing my mails: Aloha and Mahalo, Hola and Gracias and have a hard time keeping up with the different greetings! I find myself using them interchangeably and really love them all.
BUT, it was all for the best as I've loved the Caribbean most of all and was really trying to compromise with the hubby and others. I've been to STT and many other islands there and it just feels like home. I've lived in AZ most of my life and it never felt like home. I've also been all over Mexico and love it. All and all - it's just time to go. End of story.
Now that I've rambled a bit, here's what I want to do. I've been in corporate America for many years now and hate every bit ( hold an MBA and am a GM). My dream has always been a small beach bar with a limited menu with VERY good food. I took up gourmet cooking about 5 years ago and done catering and such. What I want is just a small open bar at or near the beach, no seating, I've seen this all over Mexico and love them. I have a really good menu planned and tested. One thing that Hawaii had that I just love is the Kalua pig. OMG. It's SO good. The hubby said mine was better than we got in Maui (and we ferreted out the "best" one) so it's on the menu.
I want to keep it simple, inexpensive, and high quality. I want to appeal to locals also, actually, mostly. This really isn't hard to do if you put your mind to it, I've done it with the catering. So, my questions are:
What do you all think of the idea? How do I get the liquor and food licenses and how much do they cost?
Lastly, the hubby is an engineer and senior project manager for his company, but also an expert furniture maker. It's been a hobby for decades and he has people from around the neighborhood begging for projects. From what I've read, there seems to be a niche for him also, either making furniture or teaching it or both. What are your thoughts on this?
Basically, we are two corporate academics that really just want to pursue our passions in a place and culture we love. And, yes, I know EXACTLY what we are getting into there and welcome it.
Thanks for putting up with this lengthy post.
Have you been to any of the USVIs? If not, plan on a month-long visit. Find a condo to rent for a month and live here. Go to the grogcery, the bank. Check out the shopping, thecost of everything. Go to the type of beach bar you envision owning and speak to the owners and other patrons. Go to the government offices for licensing restaurants and find out what you need.
There are many (some would say EVERY) such establishments for sale...ask yourself why.
Keep your dream alive and it will come true. We are moving in Nov. We do have a place for rent if you are interested in coming down and spending a few months doing your reserarch. Anthing is possible if you want it to happen.
Your restaurant sounds yummy ... I wish you were looking at STX instead! Licensing here takes time, be prepared, especially for anything on a beach. There are several beach bar places here on STX and they seem to change ownership frequently despite being very popular, I'm not sure if this is the same on STT but if so ... you should look into why. Usually I find the owners didn't have enough start-up funds, struggle with getting good honest labor, and/or didn't know what they were getting into work wise... Its a lot of work to run a restaurant.
But..John's BBQ place is located in a coverted container/trailer in the parking lot of a mini-mart type store (Quality Grocer) and sells the best brisket on island! Limited seating, mostly take-out. There is a couple here who sell hot dogs off a mobile cart in the 5 corners area and tons of people who have mobile food trucks with amazingly good food. Its all about taste and value! I wish you luck.
There are several fantastic woodworkers here on island and probably in STT too.
We also looked at Hawaii, Mexico and other places. We settled here and we love it and are so glad we did. But, if you've been lurking you know the drill.... PMV (pre move visit), come with lots of money to last a few months at least, wait 6 months or more before you send all you belongings... We love it here but its not for everyone and some of the recent headlines should make newcomers think twice and hard before relocating.
Good luck with your dream.
I would come down and rent a place for a while. Work in a resturant and see how things are done here. Your husband will probably be able to find work with his skills. Good luck on living your dream.
Sounds like a fun plan. I'd like to see both of you come down here. Would love a little restaurant like that and could use your husband's talents for a few things.
Best of luck and keep that dream alive!
Thanks for the replies all! Thanks for all the suggestions, they are good ones.
I've been to STT, I'm considering STX also Limetime2, do you think it would be better there for what I want to do?
I'm not planning a large restaurant and I worked in them in college, so I do know how they work.
That is interesting on why popular places would change hands so much. Maybe they aren't charging enough to make enough profit. I'm going to start the licensing process immediately, I know it takes a long time from what I've read. I plan to go ahead of the hubby, he has a good job and we feel it would be best for him to stay until I get things going.
Jules, thanks for the kind words, we'll have to meetup when I come!
Sunnyd - could you email or PM me with the info on your rental?
You might look into designing, building and shipping down a mobile food cart that can serve your special menu. Once you have established a clientele, maybe look into a permanent location. Having the furniture maker involved may give it a touch of class -- attractive and functional.
Many years ago there was a small cart on the waterfront that cooked BBQ off site, towed the cart and sold the excellent food until it was gone each night. --------- Called Texas Pit BBQ it is now one of the most successful small business stories in the VI with multiple fixed and mobile locations and a thriving catering business serving beach parties and house parties. Not a bad precedent to look into, stylewise.
Buying a beach location may be pretty expensive, leasing one possible but still limiting, and not being familiar with the local scene you might not have chosen that location, had you known what you will know a year later.
Licenses are easier to get here than most places, especially beer and wine, but using a local agent to help it through the steps will save time and be worth the cost.
Sounds as if you are not a starry eyed dreamer so with some hard work and good planning and it will likely work.
The furniture maker will have no problem finding work and if he enjoys doing it will be busy enough to tide you both over $$ until yours becomes a hit. Good Luck.
Thanks so much Exit Zero, those are great ideas. I've been toying with learning how to do real southern BBQ for some time, but figured I'd wait until I had the rest in hand.
I figured the liquor license would be easier to get than the mainland, it seems to be alot like Hawaii, which is cheap and easy. The Big Island only wanted $600 a year and about .6% of sales. Thanks for the advice on the local agent.
If anyone wants to see the menu for comment, I'll gladly post it. I also have an online travel agency which I just started (partnering with a huge company - the booking engine looks like Expedia and the others) and would like to get in hand before I move as it is mostly automated. It's a minimal investment as I do web design and designed and maintain the site myself, so it's very cheap for me.
Me and many others would love to have a Thai or Indian Restaurant.
How 'bout a food cart with a small but tasty selection of Thai dishes that can be adapted to fast-food (i.e., take-out containers). Chicken satay, musman/garee/panang curries in cups with rice, etc. Don't forget the Thai iced tea (yummmmmm).
Perhaps you could call it
I've read people complaining about the lack of those cuisines, I'm kinda suprised about the lack of Thai, I love that also. Asian food is my favorite type and I integrate it frequently and I make a mean chile water and Thai basil curry. Living in AZ with the abundance of chiles we get here has had a definate impact on my cooking style.
I also have some great Thai soup recipes, but I don't know how well those would go over in a hot tropical climate.
I'll do some experimenting. Are Asian ingredients readily available there?
Nothing is readily or reliably available here 😉
Seriously, it must be difficult for restaurants to get their requisite supplies. I guess most of them have purveyors. Produce at local grocery stores is hit-or-miss. Items LONG past their prime stay on the shelves. Floppy carrots, completely wilted cilantro, mushy mildewed onions, etc. Even more amazingly, people seem to buy that stuff! Desperation, I guess.
Make friends with some local restaurateurs to see how they get their supplies.
the main purveyor to restaurants on STT is Merchant's Market, though there are some other small companies as well - Quality Food, and another one or twoI cannot recall just now... they deliver to STJ as well, not sure about STX.
Jules, reminds me of local markets in some places in Mexico....LOL
Antillian, thanks for the info. What about your Faux Costco PriceSmart? Our Costcos have lots of food. Another thought is a run to Pto Rico once or twice a week....or are they just as bad?
I loved Pto Rico, but I decided to rebel in college by taking Russian instead of Spanish.....now I'm ordering Rosetta Stone to supplement my poor Spanish. :$) Ah, to be young and stupid again.....
RT seaplane to Puerto Rico will be some where around $250, not counting taxis. I'd say planning to do that twice a week is not practical.
The restaurant purveyors here are extremely good at what they do -- it is a matter of building up your relationship with them , they will work with you and bring in whatever products are wanted, deliver it to your location, and work hard to keep you as a customer -- IF -- you pay your bills on time and don't freak out when shipping problems occur.
Look at the quality menus at places like Craig and Sally's, Banana Tree, Old Stone, Romano's, Bella Blu, etc. and you will see that fresh, interesting, creative food can be served here on a daily basis. These chefs aren't shopping at Cost-u-less. Your original post talked of a simple but interesting beach bar type food, -- make your inventory list and visit with the major wholesalers, get a salesperson who will work with you, stay loyal to the people who help you get started and stay current $$ and you will be able to have available to you any product you can think of.
Going to PR is pretty expensive but probably worth it for kitchen equipment or tables, and other dining room needs.
Thanks Linda , I wondered about the cost to go to PR.
Exit Zero - those are great ideas and advice as usual, I've already made my list and am buying equipment here off Craigslist, there is so much to choose from and it's really cheap, but restaurant quality. I have some time while I wait for my permits, so I can be picky.
I always pay on time and tend to be very loyal by nature, so I should be able to get on well with the purveyors. My menu is simple and not expansive, but will have some different items in addition to staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. I plan to deep fry the hot dogs, I saw a place back East that did this and were very successful, I tried it and it was good! I'll also throw them on the gas grill if people prefer.
You're buying equipment? If you are serious, you are moving way too fast. You mentioned permits. Have you actually contacted anyone in government regarding permits? I don't think you can accomplish anything from off island. Buying equipment for a future business in a place you are not living seems foolhardy.
Come down, get a job in a restaurant and settle in, then you can do the reserach and make headway toward your goal.
Maybe they aren't charging enough to make enough profit.
I can't imagine any restaurant down here not charging what they can get to stay in business. What they can get is what the market will bear and if it's too high, the customers won't stick around. Restaurants have an extremely high fail rate anywhere & it's no different here, if not worse as I'm sure you know.
I agree with Linda in that you might be wiser to come work here for a while to see first hand the headaches & to avoid costly errors down the road. Getting some kind of mobile food service isn't as simple as just buying one & setting it up somewhere. You'd need permission for any location. And anything on the beach isn't going to be easy to get, especially on STT. Good luck, but really, you need to come here first & scout it out.
I haven't bought anything yet. I'm contacting the permitting agencies this week and I'll see what they say. I just meant I have plenty of time. I do plan to scout out locations as well. I'm also considering STX. I'm really just starting the process, so I know there's alot to do, but getting great advice is also very helpful and you all do that very well!
You can get most anything through purveyors if you ask...I'm on StX
The main purveyors I use:
Merchant's Market - Huge inventory from to go cups to 80# pork bellies
Princesse Market - Specialty produce and cheeses. They get great local veggies and have weeky specials.
Quality/KhussMaul - A company that uses Sysco products and is the closest thing to working in the states. Just started bringing a chill container and selling produce. Great customer service and friendly drivers.
Southgate Farms - Local greens, arugula, tomatoes, beans, herbs.
Running a kitchen is always challenging anywhere but this takes some adapting and flexibility. If you have something you need on a menu, always check ahead to make sure it will be in stock for months. Most times, it won't be.
But, if you work in a restaurant, kitchen, or want to open a restaurant....you obviously love a challenge. Welcome 🙂
I looked at the VI yellow pages and came up with these names for food distributors:
B & O wholesale
Prime Food and Supply
J & S Produce
S & P Seafood
The ones with asterisk are in PR. I'm wondering how that works and if any of these other distributors are worthwhile.
To all of you, thanks so much. This really illustrates a main reason I want to move, you all are such great people and have a wonderful sense of community you just don't see here stateside.
Noah and Sugarlander, thanks! This will be so helpful.
I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of you and can't wait to meet you in person! The hubby is spazzing over the move and big change, but I'm segwaying him from tequila to rum, so he should be fine.