PLATTSBURGH — At a time when many businesses were shutting down, Showayne Telfer decided last year to bring a flavor of the Caribbean to Plattsburgh.
Island Vybz opened on Clinton Street in downtown Plattsburgh on September 5, 2020, and its one-year anniversary is fast approaching.
“It started in the pandemic, many people say it’s not a good time to start, but once you have a vision you can’t let anything stop it.” said Telfer.
Originally from St. Telfer, who is from Thomas, Jamaica, said she moved to the Plattsburgh area about five years ago.
Since then, he got to know the current community of Jamaicans in the North Country and realized he wanted to help provide a taste of home to people in the area.
“I come directly from Jamaica, I enjoy eating what I’m used to and I find people in the same situation.” said Telfer. “Jamaicans have been in Plattsburgh for years, I know people who have been here for 20 years, 10 years; There was a huge need for community here. ”
So Island Vybz opened its store last fall, providing a wide variety of Caribbean grocery items sourced downtown from locations in Albany and New York City.
Then, last March, the business started selling a ready-made hot food menu.
Telfer created a rotating menu of Jamaican staples, including brisket chicken, oxtail, and curry chicken and goat, and began serving one day a week at first, and eventually began serving Wednesday through Saturday.
A detailed daily menu can be found on the business’s Facebook page,
And in addition to satisfying the region’s Jamaican community, Telfer said the dish is becoming popular with people less familiar with the island nation’s culinary dishes.
“This response has been huge” said Telfer. “Every day people come and say, ‘Oh, this is new, let me try this,’ or ‘Oh, I went to Jamaica five years ago and they had this soda, do you have it,’ and then they have such joy on their faces when they see it.”
And many SUNY Plattsburgh students from the New York City area have also become regular patrons, he added.
“The Jamaican community is huge, so they know this type of food no matter what ethnicity they are.”
Telfer has enjoyed the chance to bring a little piece of her hometown to Plattsburgh and hopes she can continue to be among the many businesses in the city to offer people a variety of dining options.
“You do business to make money, but sometimes people’s happiness is worth more than a dollar; bringing more diversity to the community is worth more than dollars” said Telfer.