Asolare adds days, Paradiso gets new chef

Asolare_view The Director of Operations for three upscale St. John restaurants says business is picking up.

Coby Cooper assumed management of the Integrated Assets eateries about three months after CEO, Michael San Filippo left the island.

With a weak economy and a slow summer for tourists on St. John, things were tough. “I closed Chloe and Bernard’s at the Westin to save money; there weren’t a lot of people at the resort,” Cooper told News of St. John.  He hopes Chloe’s will reopen by the first week in November.

“The Balcony is doing well,” he said, and added Asolare’s business has picked up in the last week.  He’s decided to expand its operation from three days a week to five, Monday through Friday. (Some island restaurants are closed on weekends because those are turnover days for villas and visitors are less likely to eat out so soon after arrival.)

Cooper said there are also changes afoot at Mongoose Junction’s Paradiso.  A new executive chef has been hired, Adam, who previously was sous chef under the island’s iconic Chef Ted Robinson.

Addressing reports that employees are owed wages, Cooper agreed that is the case.  “When I took over they were behind,” he said. “Now, we’re less behind.”

He is hoping for help from the restaurant’s former owner.  He’s heard that Winston Bennett wants to regain the business and has pledged that the restaurants will stay open.  “I know he has never turned his back on the restaurants,” Cooper said, “He has (already) helped in many ways. He’s always had some involvement.”

While ownership issues may be confused and involve legal action, Cooper says he’s focused on business at hand.  “These restaurants need to survive.  They need to get food in, they need to have staff … that’s my job.

“As far as anything else, whatever is going on, I can’t listen to it.  I have to do my job.”

Just do it, Just Play

"Rain rain go away,
Come again another day"

Play_2 And it did Monday, leaving Dean Doeling and his group, Using Sport for Social Change, a muddy field but a sunny day for about 50 children to play games and contests.

Just Play Day was held at the Winston Wells ball field at the Sprauve School. It was Doeling’s idea and took about 11 months to organize.  He works with Nike in Oregon and says the company wants its people involved with communities.

Activities included soccer, football trows, tug ‘o war, throwing footballs, kickball and more. “It was a successful event.  it could not have been any better for our first annual event,” Doeling said.  Dozens of volunteers were on hand to work with and instruct the children.

Gerry Singer, who writes the St. John Life blog, took his son to the event.  He called Just Play a great success. “You could see it on the faces of everyone there, not just the kids, but also the organizers and volunteers, were having a blast," he said. His blog has many pictures from the day.

Video from Just Play

Web site for Using Sport for Social Change: http://www.usingsportforsocialchange.com/

Making a difference from off-island

More than 100 St. John youngsters will get a chance to try their hands and feet at football, soccer, dodge ball and more Monday at the first annual ‘Just Play’ sports event.

Photo Organizer Dean Doeling, a senior production artist at Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, and a frequent St. John vacationer, spearheaded the event after seeing first-hand, he said, "There is an overwhelming need and desire to help these kids with their sports and fitness needs.” 

Of course, the main obstacle is financial.  Both private and public schools on the island have few dollars for sports equipment.

“On one of my trips, I noticed kids were playing with a (one) flat soccer ball,” Doeling said. “I also noticed the basketball hoops did not have nets on them … Since I work at Nike … (I thought) I could use Nike as a resource to help the kids achieve some athletic goals.”

 ‘Just Play’ will be a combination of entertainment, athletics, and free stuff.   ShoesAll participants will get Nike clothing. Many will also get new Nike shoes. It will be held at the Sprauve School ball yard.

The day-long event will be moderated by St. John’s Brenda Wallace, and feature guests including Julian Jackson, world champion boxer, the Love City Pan Dragons, the Love City Leapers and the St. John School of the Arts.

Among local businesses sponsoring the event are designer jewelry store Verace, Aarawak Expeditions, Morgan’s Mango and Starfish Market.  The full list of sponsors is available at http://www.usingsportforsocialchange.com/supporting_businesses

Doeling organized a group, Using Sport for Social Change, to help him continue the work he sees is needed. “The motto is to focus Virgin Island youth through sports and fitness, giving them the confidence they need,” he said. 

"My intention is to develop and assist with sports and fitness programs within local schools and the community. This plan will involve local schools, businesses, charitable organizations, Nike vendors and of course, Nike."

New shopping center already on the market


That was fast.

Still being completed in February, Greenleaf Commons is now for sale with an asking price of $4.95 million. 

The retail/office building is located on the South Shore road, opposite the Westin Resort maintenance building.  Businesses located in the project include St. John Market, a spa, a gift shop, and the locally-owned Merchants Commercial Bank.

The listing describes the selling points saying, “Investment opportunity in this brand new retail/office building! Beautiful architecture with stone work, columns and arches. Ample on-site parking and back up generator.”

See the listing at http://www.islandiavi.com/

Animal Care Center needs help

DogThere are happy dogs, and there are happier dogs. I don’t think I’ve ever met an unhappy dog. 

But the pooches (and kitties) at the St. John Animal Care Center have to work at being happy.  

The volunteers at the Center are always scraping to help their charges get by.  The number of homeless dogs and cats is always rising, and, therefore, so is the Center's need for food, blankets, beds, and toys.

“The ACC has no funds,” one of the volunteers told the Inquiring Iguana.

So, it’s time for the ACC to pitch for more funds.  The next event is about three weeks away,  the “No Fleas Flea Market.”  IT’S an opportunity for folks on island to mount their own garage sales on the grounds of the Sprauve school ball yard.  Sellers can reserve a space in the ball yard for $25. It’s also an opportunity for visitors to find some bargains in local art and crafts.

Nofleas_1 Nofleas_2
As the Iguana likes to say, “Anything on St. John is more valuable here than there, because it’s here!”

The Flea Market opens at 10 a.m, Oct. 24.

If the No Fleas Please sale is too far away, since you're in the States … you can do the simple thing to help.  send Money.  Via Paypal at http://www.stjohnanimalcarecenter.com/help.html

  • By the way, the photo of the happy dog above, is from a recent ‘Incredible Dog Challenge’ competition sponsored by Purina.  See many happy dogs in the event, here.

Dolphin, the low price leader this month


latest food basket survey by the Department of Licensing and Consumer
found Cruz Bay’s Dolphin Market the cheapest. 

Among three
stores surveyed, the sample food basket items at Dolphin totaled $60.68.  In second place, Pine Peace Market was 6% higher, at $64.36.  The basket at Starfish Market
cost $65.60, 7.5% higher than Dolphin.

Speaking of food
prices, the Inquiring Iguana's father in law and nephew are staying at Blue Tang
this week.  They e-mailed, “Blown away by the prices e.g. $6.99 for a
loaf of bread or $10 for a bag of potato chips! Needless to say, we
deferred stocking up to a StT. run. (I did spring for a $10 Sam Adams

But they LOVE Blue Tang. (Looking for a vacation villa?  Check it out at BlueTang.vi.)

Amazing St. John photos

Jason St. Peter lives in Texas but part of his heart appears to be in St. John. 

Stpeter A passionate photographer, he’s in the vanguard of the art using the HDR technique, aka high dynamic range. 

An HDR picture appears three-dimensional, the image is so clear and the colors so vivid.  In fact, it’s not just one picture. It's several taken with the lens opening progressively larger or smaller, so highlights and dark elements are photographed at different exposures.

This is a St. Peter photo at Cinnamon Bay.  It’s called All Alone at Sunset

He has several other HDRs of St. John here. A portrait, of Pirate Bill of Coral Bay, is priceless!  St. Peter's blog features many other HDRs of many other places. Amazing stuff.

Your tax dollars at work on Gifft Hill


Potholed, rutted, broken, dangerous, slippery, narrow, switchback-cornered Gifft Hill is going to get some attention, thanks to the federal government’s stimulus spending.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the South Shore road, near the Westin, to mark the start of an almost 3-mile road repair project which runs from the E&C service station in Cruz Bay all the way along South Shore, up Gifft Hill, past the school and onto Centerline Road.

At the event, Governor John de Jongh conceded, “It will cause disruption. I hope people won't get too mad at Public Works, because it's all for the betterment of the community.”

The Route 104 project includes road reconstruction, pavement overlaying, guard rails, new signs and other improvements.

"It's a local contractor local people are employed in the project. It's exactly what President Obama was looking for,” the Governor said.Financing for the job is being provided by an $18 million Stimulus allocation to the territory.  Other projects on St. Thomas and St. Croix will also be funded by  the money over the next two years.

Roundabout 9 months from completion


The St. John Roundabout project has been underway since August of last year.  Supervisors are confident they’ll complete the nearly $7 million job a bit ahead of schedule, by next June, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.

This photo is from the Islandia Real Estate blog. Its office building overlooks the construction site and offers periodic visual updates like this.

In fact, the Roundabout is already being used use.  Islandia says vehicles are using portions of the roundabout even though the work continues.  Things still left to do are completion of moving utilities underground and making connections, building some curbs and, of course, paving.  “For the most part, structures are complete,” Wystan Benjamin, of Public Works, told the Daily News.

Grande Bay wants a break


Developers of the Grande Bay condo project are asking for some public support in advance of a rezoning hearing this week.

At a meeting open to the public at the Marketplace, Bay Associates’ Kelly Frye made his case to the 15 people who attended that approval of the development’s latest rezoning request, which will allow it to sell the condominium units, is a good thing.  Frye said that his rezoning request actually will reduce the number to be built, from the already-authorized 14 to six.

Implicit in Frye’s remarks was a warning that Bay Isles needs the additional sales to sure additional financing so it can complete the project.  No rezoning?  No resales? No ????!

The St. John Source reported on the meeting in this story: http://stjohnsource.com/print/79684

A number of people who attended the meeting were critical of Frye and the project, the Source reported. Their complaints were that the three-story waterfront project is out of scale, and inconsistent with the island’s ecology and atmosphere.

A Grande Bay condo owner Jennifer Harrington of Minneapolis, was one of those who attended the meeting.  She told the Source, “We’re a little embarrassed to be part of this.  we’ve learned how hard it is for the whole island.”

The rezoning hearing is set for Thursday, Oct. 1.