I have lived on St Croix for over 20 years now. I’m proud to live on such a racially diverse island that weaves a tapestry of various people and cultures into our foods, celebrations, and daily way of life. I am also blessed to have a wonderful community of friends, many of whom are business owners and entrepreneurs adding to the richness of our island experience.
I’d like to introduce you to some of those friends who are Black business owners. Why is it so important to support Black businesses you may ask? It’s a great question! Awhile back I watched Season 1, Episode 1 of “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike” on Netflix. It’s a really entertaining, but thought-provoking and relevant series that explores a lot of really important issues within the Black community. In this episode, Killer Mike, a Grammy-winning rapper/activist/business owner, and a jovial, big guy tries to see if he can live exclusively using black-owned businesses for 3-days in Athens, Georgia. For example, one aspect is that he can’t eat anything that wasn’t grown, produced, or created by a Black-owned business. Spoiler alert, he gets REALLY hungry, sleeps on a bench, and rides a bicycle. I highly recommend this episode and series, it’s full of laughs but some really deep insight as well. It opened my mind to the need to actively support Black-owned businesses – especially those owned by my friends here on St Croix.
And that being said – let me introduce you to some of them …
Quiana Adams, Q Studio/ The Qui Ingredient – Originally a work colleague back in my wedding planning days who expertly photographed many lucky couples, Quiana became a dear friend. Her wedding photography is exquisite and her commercial work perfectly promotes any brand she works with. Nowadays, this busy Mommy of two has transitioned to food photography with her Qui Ingredient brand. Her Instagram feed will make you drool and her recipes will make you the star of your own kitchen.
Tanisha Bailey-Roka, The Crucian Contessa – While technically not a “business” my friend Tanisha pens the Crucian Contessa blog and is the Queen of Cocoa Tea! She shares not only her incredible recipes and beautiful food photography but shares so much more about the history and culture that is Crucian food. I have been blessed to enjoy meals from her kitchen on a couple of occasions and can tell you firsthand that she is masterful. If you want to hone your Crucian cooking skills or learn more about island life and Crucian culture, spend some time perusing the recipes that are filled with love or follow her on Facebook for more recent musings.
Nicole Canegata, Nicole Canegata Photography – born and raised on St Croix, Nicole comes from a prominent island family that has been here for many, many generations. Her father, Lt. Colonel, David C. Canegata III, was tragically killed in combat in 2007 while serving his country in Iraq. His untimely death inspired her to live her life to the fullest and pursue a career that inspired her. I’ve worked with Nicole on several projects from weddings to architecture to fashion shoots. Her quiet, soulful, and reflective demeanor is beautifully translated into her gorgeous work. Her commercial work and travel photography have been printed in numerous publications. Her recent fine art series “Daughters of Ay-Ay” is divinely inspired. I’m truly blessed to call her a friend.
Anquanette Gaspard, Virgin Islands Food Tours – Anquanette has a mission to turn “Tourists into Locals” through food. She has taken Anthony Bourdain’s concept of learning about culture through breaking bread with locals and created a business around that. Anquanette aka “Q” is a Crucian-born entrepreneur, content writer & foodie whose European adventures led her back to her island roots. She guides visitors through some of her favorite local eateries while explaining the cultural history and significance of the different foods along the way. This is a “must-do” tour for your next visit to the island!
Yoki Hanley, itiba Beauty – I’ve been using Yoki’s all-natural, vegetable and fruit-based products since I moved to the island in 2001. I first met her at a Starving Artists Fair at the Whim Plantation when she sold her brand as “Selah’s” after her daughter who had severe skin allergies. Since then, she rebranded her line to itiba Beauty and has had her products in the swag bags at the Academy Awards among other prestigious places. In the native Caribbean Taino religion, itiba is Mother Earth and all life sprang forth from her. I used to feature her soaps in my wedding gift bags. The aromatherapy alone made me smile, but the quality of her products keeps me coming back. After a hiatus following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, I’m thrilled that she’s back in business sharing itiba beauty in full force. My top picks: Carib Lime Body Spray – smells amazing and naturally keeps the mozzies away and the Mango body soap – luxurious and will make your entire bathroom smell amazing.
Willard John, Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies – If you’ve visited St Croix, attended a local celebration or Jump Up, you’ve likely encountered Willard’s troupe of Moko Jumbies. Willard is a public school professional who has dedicated his life’s work to promoting and preserving the culture of the Virgin Islands. The Moko Jumbie tradition stems from West African roots. These talented stilt dancers with their masked faces guard the village and its people by scaring away evil spirits. If you are able, be sure to attend one of their performances where Willard explains the history and significance of these iconic figures. His program teaches local St Croix youth not only the skill but the culture while promoting education and a strong work ethic. Willard can often be found emceeing local cultural and performing arts celebrations. He’s a true gift to our island!
Whealan Massicott, ib designs – Whealan is the heart and founder of the little jewelry shop that’s big on love. Originally from the island of Dominica, he has made St Croix his home for decades along with his family. If you know me, you know that my wrist is permanently graced with hand-crafted Crucian bracelets including three very special to my heart – the Karma, the Wave, and the Infinity Knot. I’ve been a huge fan of his and his team’s work for two decades and own or have gifted countless pieces. I’m not the only celebrity (ha ha, jokes!) who wears one, Kenny Chesney can often be found sporting a silver “SJ” hook bracelet hand-crafted by Whealon. Fun fact: ib stands for “island boy”.
Ralph Motta, Motta Cuisine – Another born and raised, generational Crucian, Ralph headed off to the big city – NYC – where he honed his skills as a top-notch chef. St Croix is blessed to have him back on island sharing his catering craft since 2017 with his boutique catering business that he describes as “Modern Crucian”. His mouth-watering food celebrates local flavors of the many cultures that have resulted in the many flavors of our island. Ralph is as enthusiastic and fun as he is talented. He sources many of his ingredients from local farmers celebrating the farm-to-table style. If you’re looking for a caterer on St Croix, Ralph is the bomb. He is also the current Culinary Ambassador for the Virgin Islands and a friend who is quick to make everyone around him smile!
Burton Peterson, Cast Iron Pot – Some of my favorite local meals have been had at Chef Burton’s Cast Iron Pot restaurant. He serves classic Crucian dishes that fill you up and taste amazing. Burton and his wife, Deborah, treat everyone who walks through the door like family! Prior to opening his bright yellow restaurant in the Princesse area, Chef Burton worked in the kitchens of the top resorts on the island, as well as catering Government and private events. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the island around the Christmas season, you have to stop by to taste some of his guavaberry liqueur!
Wave Philip, Tan Tan Tours – another long-time friend on the island is my buddy Wave whose Tan Tan tours are one of the most thrilling adventures you’ll find in the Caribbean! Their motto is “We go where the Tan Tan grows” and that means off-roading in top-down Jeep Wranglers through some crazy terrain to reach places like remote Sugar Mills, the Annaly Bay Tidepools, and the top of Goat Hill. Often seen riding across the island in a caravan of jeeps, it’s a high-octane adventure and one of the best ways to see St Croix. The jeep guides are FUN and really informed about the history, culture, and ecology of the island. Wave also makes some of the best bush tea and ginger beer that I’ve tasted in the islands. Grab some before your excursion from the juice bar at their Christiansted headquarters.
Frank Robinson, BES Craft Cocktail Lounge – I’ve known and worked with Frank for many years here on St Croix. Back when I planned weddings, he was my go-to bartender for our events. I’ve loved watching him grow and not only develop his skills and open his business, but share his thoughts on politics and community here in the USVI. Frank always has a smile and a positive attitude. His funky, cool neighborhood bar is full of warm, welcoming vibes and fabulous house-made elixirs and, of course, craft cocktails. He’s also a fantastic chef who promotes and supports our local farmers by producing a menu that features farm-to-table style. [ Feb 2021 update: Bes is now closed, but Frank is working on something new and exciting … and I’ll be sure to update those details when he’s ready to announce.]
Lornette Rogers, Envii Boutique – Lornette is one of those girls that always makes the “best dressed” list no matter where she goes or what she is doing. She’s a fashionista and a fabulous girlfriend who knows how to throw a party! Whenever I have an event that I need something special for, Envii Boutique is my first stop! She’s great at finding something that will make you look and feel like a million bucks. Lornette’s shop specializes in chic, fashion-forward, and on-trend clothing, bags, shoes, and more. She’s also a dedicated dog-momma like me and always supportive of a good cause.
Khnuma Simmonds, My Girlfriends Closet – I first met Khnuma aka “Kimmie” back in 2002 (I think?!) when she was in High School and we performed together in a Caribbean Community Theatre production of The Pajama Game. This always-on-the-go, dynamic woman is an entrepreneur, Women’s advocate, activist, dance and exercise guru, mother of two adorable young boys, and now she has added Doctor to her titles. Phew! With her shop she promotes the concept of #girlfriendism by “Empowering Women through Fashion, Faith, and Friendship”. Some of my go-to pieces in my closet come from her store. Visit her while you are here or shop online. You can even take one of her trademarked Sokh dance/exercise classes that feature great music and Caribbean dance moves by purchasing a virtual class on the website. Khnuma’s positive attitude towards life and community is absolutely infectious and shines through in her work and workouts!
This is by no means a comprehensive list of black-owned businesses here on St Croix, these are just some of my friends whose businesses I frequent on the island.
Do you have a St Croix black-owned business that you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!