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New York couple opens bed and breakfast in Cardiff Hall

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2015 | 3:02 PMTameka Gordon

Cardiff Hall St. Ann will soon have another hospitality offering in The Runaway, a four bedroom bed and breakfast being constructed by a young couple from Brooklyn, New York.

Jeff Belizaire and Kalisa Martin, both of whom have Caribbean roots, have merged their marketing and culinary backgrounds to create a homey hideaway just next door the Runaway Bay HEART Academy on lands owned by Kalis's family.

The 3,000 square feet B&B is due to open this September and will offer guests home-made meals and an "authentic touch of living in Jamaica the way locals do."

According to Belizaire, "once we start to have guests we will have excursions to local events in and around the area so it just won't be the regular tourist stuff but for people to live in Jamaica as though they are locals. That's what it's really about - an authentic experience," Belizaire told Sunday Business.

The coupled has pegged the design, furnishings and food to be offered at The Runaway against an organic, environmentally sound pillar and hopes to lower its ecological footprint by composting, using solar panels and utilizing other energy efficient methods.

The Runaway is sited at what was once a townhouse and is being converted to the B&B at a cost of just over US$150,000.

Renovations began in May and the investors will initially offer four rooms but they are hoping to expand it to eight by 2016.

"It's an existing five-year old building with an expansive roof. So basically what's happening is that we are doing light renovations to convert it," Belizaire said.

Jeff and Kalisa turned to the online crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money for the development. The couple exceeded their goal of US$30,000, ultimately raising more than US$46,000 towards the venture.

"We are grateful about that," Martin said.

"Family members and friends have also invested so we raised an additional US$30,000," Belizaire said, adding that whatever else is needed will be funded out of pocket.

The couple has been living in Jamaica since October 2014 and will continue living next door the B&B "because it's really important that people feel like they are visiting us in our home."

In their past lives, Belizaire ran a digital media marketing company, Reimagine Digital, while Martin holds degrees in food science and nutrition with formal training as a chef at the French Culinary Institute.

She also ran the operations of TastingTable.com and will design the menu for The Runaway.

The community-oriented B&B will take its staff of five from the HEART Academy and has already formed a synergy with the institution to be part of the institution's exposure programme.

"We will be a location where they will be training interns to work in various aspects of the hospitality business as they approach their graduation," she said.

The roof of The Runaway will also be converted to a garden, bar and lounge.

"We are transforming it so that it has a green house, gardening area where we will grow all of our vegetables, a spa area where people can have massages, a workout area for yoga and spinning sessions, and bar and grill where we can do entertainment events and dining," Belizaire said.

The Runaway is targeting adventurers, foodies and people "who want an authentic Jamaican experience and who care about their impact on the environment as well as the community impact."