top of page

Tastes of the Caribbean

Updated: Nov 27, 2023



By Wendy Baker | Photo by Jessica McCafferty


True to its commitment to a warm expression of Jamaican culture, Island Vybz, located at 26 Clinton Street in downtown Plattsburgh, provides a stop-you-in-your-tracks food experience bursting with both love and flavor. Since opening his small business in 2020, owner, Showayne Telfer, has shared the heart of Jamaica’s social culture with residents of the North Country through the foods of his childhood. His passion has led him to grow an impressive, multicultural community who appreciate traditional Jamaican dishes as well as the opportunity to purchase foods and cooking ingredients commonly found throughout the Jamaican island in local “Korner Shops.”

Starting Out Telfer came to the North Country in 2016 from St. Thomas, an urban area located on the eastern side of Jamaica near Kingston. His original idea was to start a business in phases. “In the beginning, the service I wanted to provide was a reminder of home. It’s important to me that I can wake up and cook something I was used to in Jamaica. I could see that the Jamaican community was growing in this area.”

The first phase involved opening an international convenience store that gave local residents who might have traveled to Jamaica on vacation and members of the local Jamaican community the chance to purchase food items that brought back memories of special times in their lives or thoughts of home. The first hurdle was finding reliable sources of Jamaican goods, spices and products. “In the beginning, I had to go to Albany for food supplies. Eventually, I was able to bring everything we needed to the area by making regular trips to wholesalers in New York City.”

Almost immediately after he opened, early supporters of Island Vybz insisted that Telfer find a way to offer prepared Jamaican meals. “I knew I couldn’t start a restaurant right off the bat because of the capital required and lack of supplies of the right ingredients. I knew that starting a store would be a more achievable goal. Once the store was up and going, it could supply a restaurant with the ingredients it needed.” As often happens with small businesses, dealing with demand wasn’t an easy task. “We started with just one day a week, and we were overwhelmed right away. We slowly added another day, and then another. Now, we serve food Wednesday through Saturday.

Menu options available through take out, pick-up and delivery depend on the day. Dishes available include Brown Stew Chicken, Curry Chicken, Curry Goat, Jerk Chicken, Jamaican Beef Patties with Coco Bread, and Chicken Soup. Coming soon will be Jamaican Jerk BBQ Ribs.

“In addition to bringing tastes of home to the Jamaican community, we also provide a food adventure for the North Country community,” Tester offered. “Our lunch special is really popular with customers who want a taste of something they loved when they visited Jamaica — like Jerk Chicken — but it’s also an opportunity to explore something new. Our most requested item is Oxtail Stew, but Curry Goat is definitely my staple dish. Growing up we made it from scratch, which included going out to get the goat,” Tester reports that only about half of his customers are Jamaican. “What I’m finding is that the local population gravitates to the food that I make and the Jamaican community more often buys items from our grocery store so that they can make their own food at home. In Jamaican culture, everyone cooks at their house Sunday through Thursday and Friday and Saturday we eat out.” It’s on those nights that Jamaicans are more likely to come spend an evening at Island Vybz, especially on summer nights when Telfer occasionally throws some dominos on the outside tables. It’s on those occasions that the festive community vibe found at the Korner Store in Jamaica comes to life.

Sharing with Others It isn’t often that a restaurant earns a citation from the New York State Legislature, but hanging behind the register at Island Vybz is just that. The citation, presented by Assemblyman Bill Jones, commends Island Vybz for sharing its Jamaican culture with the North Country and highlights “their generosity and commitment to the residents of the 115th Assembly District.” The citation states that, “In Island Vybz, we have individuals who are certainly worthy of the esteem of the Great State of New York.”

Earning a commendation like this comes as no surprise as generosity is part of the Jamaican spirit. “Growing up in Jamaica, you are often around people who don’t have a lot. My father always cooked in a big pot. You don’t just cook food for people in your house, you cook for people who are going to pass by who might not have food to eat. When we cook, we take food from the pot to give to others in the community so that everyone eats.”

Moving Forward Telfer said the hardest part of his journey so far has been learning all the rules and regulations in order to be in compliance. “I don’t really get surprised by anything. To me, I can take everything as it comes. Everything is just the next thing that needs to be done.”

Goals for Island Vybz in 2023 include Telfer’s wish to continue to grow as a business person and broaden his ability to target communities that are reaching out to him. “The Jamaican community in Vermont comes over quite a lot and members of the African community have also reached out to me and asked about including them in what we’re doing since some of our native foods are the same.”

Note from writer Wendy Baker: “I will stand in line if necessary to try Showayne’s Jamaican Jerk BBQ Ribs appearing soon at Island Vybz.”

Island Vybz 26 Clinton Street Plattsburgh, NY 12901 518 310-1273

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page