Plan for new gas station, quick-stop store

Plans are afoot to build a gas station on Centerline Road.  

Developer Guilderoy Sprauve is asking for a zoning change to allow him to build the station and a convenience store on land which used to be the home of a concrete plant and is now home to Love City Home and Garden Center. 

Sprauve was quoted by the St. John Source saying everything is in place to move ahead with the project. "We have the funding," he said.

There will be an attendant on duty at the station, even  though it will be self service.  You'll also be on your own at the C-store.  Sprauve apparently intends to install vending machines.  He said the store will be "robotic."

Of course a new gas station would be helpful on the island.  E&C Service in Cruz Bay is the only place to gas up now; the Dominio station in Coral Bay is still closed with no word when, or if it will reopen.

  • Read the Source story here

Blue Tang: #2 and proud of it!

Longtime readers know that News of St. John began as a not-so-subtle effort to encourage rentals of our home on the island.  There's a lot of competition for rentals and I thought the site would help.  It has. It is the oldest and largest Web site with news about St. John.

Ext_day_pool So it was with surprise and gratitude that, while mousing around TripAdvisor.com the other day, I found that Blue Tang was ranked as the #2 most popular rental on the island, with a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars ranking, too.  Shocked … thankful … happy.

Blue Tang ranked so well because of the reviews people who have stayed at the house were kind enough to post.  A few of their comments:

  • "A peaceful, relaxing, romantic honeymoon at Blue Tang."
  • "Blue Tang rocks."
  • "Best vacation we've ever taken."
  • "Awesome views and location."

I have to admit that each time we visit Blue Tang and read through the Guest Books, we are often moved to tears at the kind things people say about the house as they recount the wonderful time they had on the island and at our place.

If you're headed for St. John, I hope you'll consider our home, too.

Frank Barnako, aka The Inquiring Iguana

Progress for new St. John school

A federal official has gone on  record endorsing a plan to a land swap which will make it possible for construction of a St. John school near Centerline Road.

Anthony Baubata, the Interior department's Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, met with the Governor and agreed to assist in the project.

The proposal involves turning over land on St. Croix to the National Park Service in exchange for a St. John school site, dates back to 2007.

“We’re all moving in a direction where we are recommitted, we’re re-energized to try and make sure the land is available for residents of St. John so we can build a public school there for the children of the community,” Baubata said during a visit to the territory.

New bakery in an old bakery’s spot

Baked in the Sun is moving from the Marketplace to be the neighbor of Killroy Dry Cleaner in Cruz Bay, next door to the Inn at Tamarind Court.

In a posting on the St. John forum on TripAdvisor.com, StJohnJulie reported that plans to close the bakery business are off the table, that a current employee has bought it.

"Talked to the new owner," Julie said. "Asked her when they were going to be moved and she said November 1 they will be in the new spot. It's an ambitious deadline!!! But she has the right attitude and hopefully everything goes well …"

Exiting the Marketplace?

It's going to be lonely at the Marketplace Shopping Center if island rumors are true.

On Trip Advisor's St. John forum last week, StJohnJulie said she's heard three current tenants are looking to exit the center.  She named the Gym, the La Plancha del Mar restauran.

"I am hearing that being a tenant at the Marketplace isn't the easiest, and people could be just throwing that in to the 'moving out' argument to make things seem really bad. We love our drama!"

On the other hand, the Nest gift shop has reopened after undergoing a makeover and upgrade.

New Yorker criticizes Maho Bay room service

You can't make this stuff up.

A guest at the Maho Bay Camps blasted the eco-resort on Yelp

Vasyl F. of Rego Park, New York said, "This is the worst hotel I've ever stayed in."

The Queens borough resident said the description of Maho he read on Expedia.com did not meet his expectations.

"No ocean view rooms … and no mountain view … they charge even to lock your door … tents are 30 years old and leaking, and cracks in the floors are so wide that cockroaches and lizards are flooding the dwelling. Restaurant is extremely dirty and the food is all from cans and is made in China."

As for being an 'eco-resort," Vasyl said, "They just don't repair the hotel and don't clean the territory, besides all their furniture, tables, plates, glasses and many more things are made of cheap toxic plastic which is definitely not eco-friendly."

In rebuttal, anyone who knows anything about Maho Bay also knows that Vasyl's expectations were way off the mark.  But, he may not be alone, given what The Inquiring Iguana found when he slithered to Expedia's Maho entry.

For starters, Maho describes itself as a three star "Coral Bay hotel with a private beach."  Misleading, some could say. The Expedia description of Maho is also, shall we say, 'generous.'

Maho's 'amenities' are listed (see below), suggesting the rustic resort, with accommodations from $80/night, could compete with villas. (It's the Select Comfort mattress that really caught The Iguana's attention.)

AmenitiesThe Iguana understands how Expedia wants Maho to present itself in the best light.  But, he also wonders how a smart guy from Queens could make the assumption that he was staying a a luxury-like hotel when the Expedia site reservation screen offers "tent cottage."  That's a pretty good clue to what he's going to get.

  • Vasyl F.'s review of Maho Bay on Yelp is here.
  • Maho Bay on Expedia is here.

Go on vacation, bring home a new skill

Most people know Maho Bay Campground as a laid-back, environment-friendly, low-stress place to relax. It's not so well known as an art school.  Yet, that's what it is, too, especially this year with a re-energized curriculum.

StokingkilnWeekly classes are designed for island visitors, generally two hours long.  They includes Kids and Family Potter's Wheel, Kids or Adults Clay Bells and Whistles, and mask making.  Each promises to get you out the door with something you've created.

There are extended classes, also.  Each meets for several weeks, three hours at a time.  They include Relief and 3-D Sculpture, Glazed Earthenware, and Off the Wheel Techniques

There are also glass blowing classes, with an emphasis on art you can make from recycled materials.

Early in May, Maho featured Steven Branfman as the Clay artist-in-residence. 

Blues Festival 2011!

2011_StJohnBluesFestival This announcement from Steve Simon:

"Frank, the 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival will be held from Wednesday, March 16th through Sunday, March 20th."

Planning to attend? Stay at our Blue Tang villa.  BlueTang.vi.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18th, 2011
Albert Cummings, Candye Kane,
and Grady Champion

SATURDAY, MARCH 19th, 2011
Curtis Salgado, Reba Russell,
and Moreland & Arbuckle

More info at http://stevesimonpresents.com/stj_blues_festival.html

New book set on St. John

It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.

Lyrics from As Time Goes By in Casablanca

Cover On St. John, the age old story is about a fight between between development and Caribbean simplicity.  Until the recession hit, development was winning and moving ahead.

The tussle between these forces is at the heart of a new book written by Chuck Ball.  He lived on the island from 2004 to 2007 and saw the boom and bust of the real estate and construction market.  He worked construction, helping to build eco-cabins at Maho and Concordia.

His book is Mingo's Cave. "The central theme of the story is the battle between over development and saving a pristine island environment," Ball explained.

One person has reviewed it on Amazon, giving it a five star rating. "Action, adventure and hidden treasure on a tropical island. Kind of 'Indiana Jones' meets 'Treasure Island'. Enjoyed learning more about the US Virgin Islands and another way of life. A Hollywood ending but that was ok..nice, entertaining read. "

Available on Amazon, it's both an e-book and an audio book.  You can download and listen to it on your iPod, iPad, Zune, PC, Mac and or/ read it on whichever device you prefer.  The price is $3.99.

To do Sunday: run, swim, bike

Race The 12th annual Love City Triathalon will step off Sunday, delayed a few weeks by the Hurricane Earl which brushed the island earlier this month.

The swim, bike, and run competition begins at 7 a.m. and is open to both individuals and two- or three-person relay teams.  The morning races start with a half-mile swim at Maho Bay, followed by a 14-mile bike route and then a four-mile run beginning with a trek up the stairs at the Anneberg ruins.

The race is sponsored by the Love City Landsharks.  Last year's competition drew 63 athletes.