Knutsford Express traffic perks up Island Coffees
The co-owners of Island Coffees, a growing cafe and bistro business in Island Village, Ocho Rios, said they multiplied staff-count tenfold in three months due in part to increased traffic from Knutsford Express’ bus hub in the same plaza.
The bus company opened a terminal at the complex back in September.
The husband and wife co-owners of Island Coffees, Paula and Jonathan Surtees, opened the Boardwalk Bistro four months later in January after operating the cafe for a number of years. Both stores are separately located in the Island Village plaza with the bistro or restaurant occupying the largest space by the waterfront.
"We increased our employees from three to 30, because we are ‘catering' to Knutsford Express which moved from the jerk centre," said co-owner Paula Surtees on Monday.
The Gleaner visited both stores on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Initially few patrons walked around the plaza but that changed when a bus arrived. The cafe which just moments prior seemed staff-heavy began taking a rush of orders.
"I really wanted to see how the staff would handle the orders on Sunday because some are new," Surtees said. "I am proud of the ones that came on board so far."
She explained that the store expanded opening hours to accommodate the schedule of the bus arrivals: "So we open from 5.30 and we needed two shifts. Each shift has 10-12 people between the cafe and bistro".
The bistro opened with an investment of $15 million. Most of the money was spent on equipment, fixtures and staff.
The Surtees have also managed Strawberry Hill hotel in St Andrew for a number of years. They lease five acres of land by the hotel to farm Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. The cafe in Ocho Rios serves Strawberry Hill’s branded dark roasted coffee as its marquee item.
"I was general manager up to 2010 and my husband is the current chairman," Surtee said of Strawberry Hill. The Ocho Rios cafe offered the couple a chance to venture into other forms of hospitality. The bistro serves a mix of local and international cuisine at prices ranging from $800 to $1500 per menu item.
"People who are hungry they need something in ten minutes that is affordable. We base everything on high volume," said Jonathan in the interview about the bistro which at some 600 square feet is larger than the average store in the plaza.
The co-owners plan to keep both stores open. The Surtees are catering to locals as their primary customers as cruise ship passengers remain seasonal. But there are plans by the plaza's management to increase tourist tours into the plaza, Surtees said.