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Martin’s Bay . . . a hidden treasure

Marlon Madden

Martin’s Bay . . . a hidden treasure

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It is Thursday and we arrive at the Bay Tavern Rum Shop in Martin’s Bay, St John, around noon.
Already, the adjacent car park is full and a number of vehicles are parked along the side of the road. Scores of people are seated on benches, eating and drinking, and chatting as music plays in the background. Others are comfortably settled on the lawn across the street – close to the sea. People are constantly moving in and out of the shop and even more people are frequenting the food area.
We are told that is the usual scene on any given Thursday.
Famous for its fried fish, soup, pickled conch and shrimp, sweet treats and other edibles, that section of Martin’s Bay is quickly becoming a relaxing hang-out spot for many tourists and locals.
“It is a good place to unwind and de-stress,” said Juanita Hewitt, a customer patiently waiting in line for her soup.
“I come here only on Thursdays because I come for the soup or for the fried fish. The soup is good; it is fish soup. It tastes like my grandmother’s soup.
I usually get down here about 12:30 or 1 o’clock and  leave here around 4 o’clock [in the evening]. I am going to go down by the beach and sit down and just unwind. The food here is good,” she reiterated.
Since it was lunch time we decided to grab a quick bite. But it would be too long a wait for the famous fried fish or soup given the number of people we saw waiting. So I ordered pickled shrimp, much to my satisfaction.
The Bay Tavern Rum Shop is almost six years old. Co-owner Junior Gittens told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY they provided direct employment for eight people.
“There is a team that we started with about four-and-a-half years ago. It started slowly but is now steadily growing. Our peak times are around Crop Over, Easter and Christmas,” he said, and
that the rural location was far from being dead.
“Because of the setting, when we get people come, it is like something newly discovered. Once some people accidentally meet up on it, you see the shock and awe! And definitely the ambiance keeps them coming. It is like a secret in Barbados right now,” he said.
Gittens described the area as “a work in progress”. He said while there was room for “a few more” businesses to come in the area, it should be kept “measured” so as to not change the atmosphere and make patrons uncomfortable.
“We used to start at 11 a.m. but we see people coming earlier so we starting between 10 and 10:30 now on mornings . . . . People spend the majority of time; if someone comes here at 10, they spend eight hours or more and it depends on the activity in the evening,” he said, stating that it was mostly promotion that would take place in the evening.
“Right now I cater to the mature and returning nationals and locals who are retired. On evenings we get young people who are coming in from work and want to socialize, but mostly it is the mature people,” he added.
Edgar Barrow is one of the men who cleans fish for Gittens each week. He agreed the area could do with a little more development but according to him, he did not see it taking place anytime soon because of the current state of the economy.
The other business in that location is Dorcas Delight. The owner, Sherry Clarke, lives in the area. She has been operating there over three years, selling nut cakes, gooseberries, tamarinds, natural fruit juices – “eva ting Bajan”.
“I am only here on Thursdays and business is good. I am always getting new buyers and I get my repeat customers. We have just been growing over the years. A lot of people enjoy the old-time treats that they don’t get everyday everywhere,” said Clarke.
Jan Brathwaite is a resident in the parish. She said she would visit the tranquil community every Thursday with company from all over the island.
“I look forward to it every week. When I am coming down here on a Thursday, I get up and have a cup of tea, a slice of toast and that is it because I am looking [forward] to my fish and things when I get down here. You can’t eat heavy breakfast and come here,” she said.
Meanwhile, Henderson Prospere, a Spooners Hill, St Michael resident, was visiting the area for the first time. He promised to go back every week, stating that to him “it is better than Oistins”.
“This is Barbados!” he said excitedly.
“I don’t feel like going back home. I have some friends, as I get back home I telling them about down here. The thing about it is that I hear people talk about it all the time. This is beautiful,” he exclaimed.