In the spotlight
Owner of Franky’s Bar & Restaurant on Sint Eustatius
Franky’s Bar & Restaurant, owned by Franklin Gibbs, is an offspring of the former Talk of The Town Restaurant, which was the first official restaurant on St. Eustatius that Franklin’s mother Melvyna Nias opened officially in July 1976. Franky’s celebrated it’s 33 years’ anniversary in November 2022 and is a cultural landmark on St. Eustatius. A visit to the island of St Eustatius is not complete without passing at Franky’s and trying one of the famous dishes under the guidance of the chef and owner Franklin Gibbs.
Recently you celebrated your 33-year anniversary for your bar. Congratulations! How do you look back on all those years of doing business on Statia?
“I think I was 28 when I opened Franky’s Bar & Restaurant, after having lived in the Netherlands for several years. I started small with only a small shack and expanded over the years, with at least six different renovations, to what it is today. The journey has been an interesting one so far. Exciting in the beginning, sometimes hard, but I’ve always enjoyed servicing the community of Statia, and still do! I must say I liked the old days better, when there was fewer competition and less rules. Sometimes I feel the food service market on the island is like the Wild Wild West: anyone seems to be able to get a restaurant license these days, or when they don’t have one, they cook at home and sell food from the back of their truck so to say. This is unfair competition since those vendors hardly have any overhead costs and can offer their food cheap.
But luckily for me, people still like to go out to eat and drink and Statia is still small with few options to dine. My guests have no trouble finding my place, and I definitely don’t need Facebook for my marketing. People know what they can expect because our kitchen is consistent. In what we offer, when we are open and how it tastes. What I remember from the old days also is that when we would organize an event, people would plan in advance to attend, and they really looked forward to it. These days, people decide on the day self where to go, because they have more options, which means we never really know in advance how the turn out will be.”
How was it to start a new business on Statia as a young entrepreneur?
“It was very exciting. I remember bringing certain dishes and ingredients from the Netherlands that people on Statia had never tasted before. But I stuck with my plan and vision, and they learned to appreciate it.”
How was the competition back in the days?
“There hardly was any competition. I remember Skell (Super Burger) was there and the Old Gin House restaurant. There were no Chinese restaurants yet and not many bars.”
Can you tell us something about the changes over the years in the business community?
“We used to have an economy without taxes and lots of opportunities for purchasing from neighboring islands. There were direct sea connections with St Maarten, but also with Puerto Rico and St Kitts. Because of that, we had many more tourists visiting the island. Nowadays the trade options are limited and very expensive, as well as passenger travel. Luckily, we have a ferry connection again. Although I wish they would subsidize the Mutty’s Pride, instead of the Makana ferry, making the import of goods cheaper. The introduction of the tax system and several rules and regulations has made everything more expensive too, to the effect that it’s hard for businesses to survive. I’ve also seen the work ethic of people change over the years: people seem to want to make money quickly now, but rather not work for it. This makes it hard to find good staff. I am blessed with personnel that stuck with me for years.”
What do you think is the key to your success?
“Consistency and perseverance. I value particular recipes and ingredients and have kept them the same over the years. 10 years from now, this will still be the case. To guarantee a consistent flavor and quality, only I myself or my cook Mercedes, who works with me for 15 years already, prepares the food.”
What would you advise people who have just started a new business?
“Continuity. Try to do things the best way that you can. And in a professional way. And don’t let hard times knock you down. Because there will be times when you are less happy and maybe want to give up. Don’t! Follow your dream and fight for it.”
Is there anything else you wish to share with the business community?
” I don’t agree with the plastic ban on Statia. I understand the idea, and the vision is admirable, but there are no good and reasonably priced alternatives. I can’t even serve my guests in proper food containers now. I think the government was wrong putting an ordinance in place without offering proper alternatives to the businesses. Saba already revoked the ban and even in the Netherlands single use plastic is not forbidden. So why should Statia be any different? I wish the restaurant owners would join hands and protest against this.”