Old Conch Harbor Caribbean Gift Shop (Under Old Tavernier Restaurant-Tavernier
"I have lived all over the US and world. I had been living in the Caymans for 15 years when I came back here in 2011 to visit my lifelong friend Jorge Cabrera.
As most of you probably know, Jorge had been a guest of the penal system following his smuggling days. He was released in mid 2010 and returned to Islamorada. He had great business plans and I wanted to be a part of them. So, here I am.
The thing about Jorge is he has always been, would've been and will be successful at whatever he does. His worth ethic is unparalleled.
He has a great sense of humor and when he started the cardboard recycling business, he'd joke he was back into bales...albeit legal ones this time.
It's been a rousing success. We have clients in Marathon and Key West asking when we will be opening up there. We pick up the bales for free from the commercial accounts and make our money selling that recycled cardboard.
He was able to buy back this location with private financing when he returned and is now working on bringing the dreams to life for this place that he always had. We hauled 3 dumpsters full of trash from the mangroves when we returned here. One reason Jorge made the parking lot so big when he originally owned this place was so there could be car shows, art shows and community events like that here and now we can make those things happen.
We have great plans for our gift shop and marina here. Jorge has a talent for re-purposing old materials and many of the infrastructure things you see here, our decking, shelving, etc., are created from materials from the Cabrera Trucking company site and Industrial Park sites.
We plan on having a Charter Boat here soon and have 21 boat slips now for mooring and rental. We hope to utilize this beautiful back area for locals and visitors to be able to sit with a cup of coffee or a smoothie and enjoy the view and beauty back here.
You can see the green boat behind me in the picture and that is a Cuban refugee boat we salvaged that was abandoned near the Ch 5 bridge. The engine still works and we are refurbishing it. Locals will recognize the style of the boat as the way the boats were back in the 50's and 60's down here. People love to have their picture taken on it.
We have a working lobster boat and that's why you see all the tanks back here with lobsters. The Orient is paying a premium price right now so we export to them as do many lobster boat captains down here. It's why you don't see a lot of live lobsters in restaurants here. It's kind of sad, but, the market is the market.
We have a gallery in part of our building here with a lot of pictures from the 70's through early 90's here in the Keys. I think most locals would love coming to see and remember.
When I first came back after over 15 years to Islamorada I was glad to see it hadn't changed a whole lot. I'm glad the big chain stores have not moved in. It is still a cottage industry island and that's a big part of the charm.
I loved the Cayman years and it is where my girls grew up. I'm very proud of them. We all worked hard. The expectations in our family were high. They always had jobs. The laugh now about how 'mean' I was when they had their periods. They wanted to lay around and whine about feeling bad. I told them to suck it up, it's part of your life now, deal with and move on, it's no excuse to be mean and pitiful. My girls are pictured with me below this last Christmas.
One of my girls worked in an ice cream parlor from the time she was 12. By the time she was 14, the owner was leaving her alone to run it while he took care of other business. One morning she woke up sick and told her she better stay home. She told me she couldn't because John was depending on her and she had to open the store. I realized the work ethic lessons had been successful.
Like here, some of the Cayman culture was that laid back island style thing, take plenty of time off work, chill out and don't do stress. That wasn't the rule in our family then and there or here and now.
I want to brag on one of our employees here. She had been out of the work force for a while, for a number of reasons, when we hired her here. One night she had to take her daughter to the emergency room (non life threatening) and the child was still in the hospital in the morning. Our employee chose to be to work on time, discuss the challenge with me, and gave us the opportunity to work it out together. I so appreciated that and we got her back to the hospital. Most people would've just called in or not called, and not shown up. The hospital was less than 5 minutes away and she was able to come to work, arrange for someone to cover her shift and return to her daughter.
I'm here for the long haul now. Jorge and I have so many ideas and so many projects. Everyday is exciting, different and I can't wait to see what the day brings."