The short story….. I’m a Type “A” guy who was born and raised in Michigan. A real estate developer all my life who finally retired, couldn’t stand the cold winters any longer and moved to Nevis in the early 2000’s. Funky Monkey was started over cocktails and with absolutely no business in mind. However, it was a perfect fit for me as I was bored and going stir crazy with nothing to do while living in paradise.
And, here’s the longer version if you’re bored.…. early in life, my family and I took several Caribbean Cruises which opened our eyes to all the different islands. Cruising was fun and easy – unpack only once, endless food/entertainment and a nice entrée to all the different islands. Based on our island likes from those cruises, we moved on to island destination vacations to allow us to explore further. Years later, I took up sailing and chartered throughout the Bahamas, US & British Virgin Islands and the Grenadines (St. Vincent down to Grenada). While sailing was a great way to visit all the small, non-cruise ship, no airstrip little islands, it eventually became too slow and monotonous for me. So, I took up flying and Eager Beaver Air Service was born over more drinks! I bought a variety of single, twin, turboprop & light jet aircraft and flew my way around all the islands. This was a great way to see and explore the Caribbean and a whole new adventure!
I really liked the Caribbean lifestyle and hated going back to Michigan after each trip dreaming of one day where I’d stop being a “tourist” and become a “local” by living on an island – and maybe even owning a beach bar! Well, somehow that just happened back in the early 2000’s.
After crossing off my “Bucket List” item of landing a plane in St. Barth’s, I threw a dart at the map and it stuck on Nevis (right or wrong!). I took the seats out of my CJ, loaded up my stuff, and flew down from the frozen Midwest where I finally put my feet firmly in the sand. And that, my friends, is when my “real Caribbean adventure” began – it’s a story that’s still being written as the Carnival continues to this day!
After an initial couple of years of living on Nevis just washing my Jeep, mowing the grass and drinking silly rum drinks with small umbrellas, I was bored out of my frigging mind. I originally brought down a Polaris 4×4 and folks were always interested in it. One afternoon, a local restaurateur asked me if I would take a few of his guests out and show them around the island. Something clicked in my mind, I liked the idea and the business literally took off all on its own.
For the first couple of years, my wife and I did all the tours primarily for entertainment as Nevis is pretty laid back and there’s not much to do. Originally, we called it our “Rum Punch Tour” as we took our guests from resort to resort sampling and rating the rum punches while in route. After a few punches it didn’t matter if they were good or bad as they all tasted good! Back then, we only did one tour a day as it was strictly a social thing for us and after all those rum punches it was time for bed!
A few years later, a friend who was also from Michigan moved to Nevis. He was a happy-go-lucky marketing guy and it was he who turned our little social diversion into a real business. At my wife’s suggestion, the name was changed to FUNKY MONKEY (due to all the damn monkeys on the island) and we started doing two tours a day along with vehicle rentals. As the business grew, we eventually hired guides and mechanics. We also got into Jet Skis and scooters (but eventually got out of those headaches). Today, we have a fleet of Polaris 4x4’s, have offices on both Kitts and Nevis and offer tours twice daily, rentals and private tours. Since we began, we’ve served over a quarter million guests and the business continues to grow. Funky Monkey is like Walt Disney World as we’re the “happiest company on the island!” But don’t take it from me – see our guest reviews on TripAdvisor and you’ll know why we’ve been the #1 Attraction on Nevis for 13 years in a row!
But wait a minute – I’ve got more island adventures to tell you about. Back around the time we started our Rum Punch Tours, we opened our first island restaurant – the YACHTSMAN GRILL. - It was a small place located directly on the beach. Like Funky Monkey, it was to be another social thing – a gathering place for my wife and I along with our island friends serving my kind of food! Now operating a restaurant anywhere in the world is a tough business. But it’s especially difficult on a remote island like Nevis where everything has to be imported and is expensive, where it’s very seasonal, where there’s a limited number of visitors along with very competitive fellow restaurateurs, where reservations don’t exist so you can be empty or slammed at any moment with guests wanting instant 1st class world service, where the labor pool is very limited and with little or no experience, where if you need one item you better purchase two items because one item is walking out the back door, where electricity goes off when its least expected, where a hurricane can take away everything in a flash and so on…….. It should have failed but despite all the issues, hurdles and headaches, we somehow persevered and flourished in that original location as we brought new ideas and fresh menus to the island that our friends and guests enjoyed.
Five years later, and against all common sense – I opened another restaurant. But this time it was a big fancy, full service, Wine Spectator Award place just up the beach. While we had a large menu, our specialty was thin crust pizza. We hand build a wood burning brick oven, imported the best ingredients from Italy and made the best damn pizza in the Caribbean. This was BIG, popular place and a major 24/7 headache. How we ran two business at the same time for over ten years still amazes me to this day! – It’s another story all in its own.
But as luck would have it – about five years into this place, a guy walks in off the beach and literally buys it on the spot!
OK – now a normal previously retired guy would hang it up and relax. But noooooo – I went out and bought into CORKS & SCREWS - the wine / spirits distributor who originally supplied our place and all the other resorts, restaurants and bars on Kitts and Nevis. Stupid? Well maybe?.....but it’s a hell of a lot easier than the Food & Beverage business and I can at least drink my losses!
And this season of 2019/2020, we open Funky Monkey on St. Kitts. The potential for business is many times greater than that of Nevis with all the resorts and over 1 million cruise ship passengers each year. But with all the potential – there’s going to be lots of work ahead – and so, I’m off on another new adventure!
While I’ve been officially retired for years - I find myself working harder than ever but thoroughly loving it.
The story to be continued……………
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