Care for a Jack Daniels Barbecue Wrap, along with Janga Soup, served in a comfortable setting overlooking the heart of downtown Kingston?
Kevin Pearson developed “Island Squeez Diner and CruiserZ Lounge” to offer that type of cuisine to his customers. He originally operated restaurants on West Kings House Road and in Spanish Town for several years, prior to his Corporate Area venture in 2015.
“I had a good customer base, however, I realised that I could cater to a bigger market if I moved downtown,” he said. “There are several fine restaurants north of Cross Roads, but not many below that juncture.”
He took advantage of the new impetus and renewed energy in the downtown Kingston area spurred by Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and acquired and restored the KDP building.
“Moving downtown was appealing financially,” he said. “I am no longer paying rent.”
The physical location of Island Squeez Diner/CruiserZ Lounge on the first floor of the KDP Building was not the only thing that changed for its operations. He soon discovered that he had acquired a more diverse customer base, and, consequently had to adapt to their tastes.
“We originally offered sandwiches, salads and smoothies,” he said. “But, our customers wanted a wider range of offerings, therefore, our menu was amended and expanded to meet those needs.”
“I now serve everyday Jamaican staples, such as rice and peas and fry chicken,” he said. “And, I also mix natural fruit and vegetable juices from produce bought in the area.”
With prices starting from $300, Island Squeez Diner and CruiserZ Lounge has developed a loyal client base from employees at companies downtown Kingston, he states, adding that, “customers can easily access the nearby UDC parking lot when they visit.”
Mr. Pearson says that one challenge he had to overcome was that of financing the project. He points out that JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) has been a valuable pillar of support, and he is looking forward to continued partnership as he plans to expand to include a sports bar in the near future, as well as the continued renovation in the downstairs area, which he markets as retail space.
“JNSBL has been supportive of my project,” he explained. “The process was smooth and I used the funds to purchase kitchen equipment and further develop our concept.”
Gillian Hyde, General Manager for JNSBL commended Mr Pearson for his bold decision to relocate to downtown Kingston.
Gillian Hyde, General Manager for JNSBL commended Mr. Pearson for his bold decision torelocate to downtown Kingston. She said, “We need more entrepreneurs to start businesses in areas like these across the island. There are good opportunities for bold decision makers.”
The restaurant and sports bar currently employs ten staffers, and Mr Pearson indicates that the number of employees will increase in the near future, as the business expands and grows.
“I am confident about our future here in downtown Kingston, as the area is slowly returning to its former glory,” he said. “I also see the possibility of Island Squeez opening a location in Portmore.” This confidence sees Pearson adding value to his offerings by introducing catering services and hosting private events and parties.