Jen: You’ve lived a pretty fascinating life full of adventure. You worked as a professional singer and a zoo keeper? What’s the most memorable job so far?
Linda: I would have to say singing. Gigs that I’ve done in the past, people I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with some really fascinating talented people. Always different, always changing and because of that I was growing and changing too. I performed in every genre of music and that was very stimulating. I was able to travel a lot and always have different fun experiences.
Jen: Was there anyone person that was the most inspiring?
“Vicki Sue Robinson was probably the most amazing person I ever met.”
Linda: She was also an animal lover, she was a kind woman who helped me out a lot. She was really inspiring too. She was an amazing singer and not many people know that because they just know the one song she did in the 70’s.
Jen: What song was that?
Linda: “Turn the Beat Around”. And she was much more than that. She was also a jingle singer and got me into voice over work. She got me into singing jingles.
Jen: Can you sing one right now?
Linda: No. I haven’t thought of any of them for awhile. The last one I did I think was for “Smart Cookie”. It was some kind of diet cookie. You eat these cookies and you lose weight.
Karaoke with Casey
Jen: You enjoy doing karaoke every once in awhile. What’s your favorite go to Karaoke song?
Linda: It’s usually “Barracuda” by Heart. But the guys always pick something or me to do. Last night Casey said he wanted to do this Celine Dione song “It’s All Coming Back to Me” and we turned it into a duet.
Jen: Where was this?
Linda: The Doghouse Pub.
Jen: Ok, great because I heard Castaways had closed and the Doghouse Pub had moved in. Sounds like they decided to keep the karaoke thing.
Linda: Yeah, same location just different name.
The Best of Both Worlds
Jen: You mentioned how you were inspired by change and learning knew things. Is that how St.John happen for you?
Linda: I had been coming here on vacation for 12 years and the last time I was down with my kids they were crying about wanting a swimming pool. In New Jersey you can only use a swimming pool 2 months out of the year in the summer. It’s summer here all year long and that is like our favorite season. Swimming pool or beach, you can always be in the water. Plus it’s more diverse and seeing as how my family is diverse – my daughter is Armenia and my son is Ethiopian, I wanted to move somewhere that suited our family in that way. I also have a background in retail. I had my own store for 15 years and was raised and worked around my Great Aunt’s art gallery in Washington DC. So, I had a good knowledge of art, design and retail. When I decided to move, it made sense to look for the best of both worlds.
Jen: And that just happens to be the name of your art gallery!
Linda: Yeah, “The Best of Both Worlds.” And when the opportunity to acquire “Nest & Co.” came along it was a no brainer because it’s right next door, and that business is very different than “Best of Both Worlds” and I knew that kind of business too – retail, clothing, jewelry, home goods.
Jen: What are your stores best known for? What are your most popular items?
Linda: In “Best of Both Worlds” we are most well known for our artists in painting and our fantastic artisan jewelers. “Nest” is really known for their cards, housewares and clothing and I have just expanded the clothing line. It’s huge, we have all kinds of great brands. I mean I love clothes just like I love jewelry. I mean who doesn’t. We have everything, except for socks. Maybe I need to get some socks in the store.
Jen: Socks? Who wears socks in the VI. I mean unless you are a German tourist in Birkenstocks.
Linda: Well we still have to cater to the Germans.
Humor is Inherited
Jen: You’ve got a sharp sense of wit. What do you think influenced this, your Armenian background, Jersey upbringing?
Linda: My father! He’s a tremendous smart ass. I was raised with wit and sarcasm. My grandfather was the same, always wise cracking.
Jen: They say humor is the best medicine, would you agree?
Linda: Yes, absolutely. The happier you are the more you laugh, the better your outlook on life. Plus there is a chemical released in your brain when you laugh.
Jen: Yes! Endorphins!
Linda: I can’t remember anything because I have no brain left. But I bought brain vitamins. You know they make vitamins to boost your brain.
Jen: Yes, I know, I’m taking fish oil for my brain.
Linda: No this is something else. I think it’s called “Brain Bright. Anyway, I ordered some but I can never remember to take it.
Jen: (Laughs) That’s like me. I’m reading this book to help me improve my memory but I can’t remember the name of the book. Wait, actually I have it in front of me. Its called “Moon Walking With Einstein” by Joshua Foer – the art and science of remembering everything. I’m about halfway through and I can only remember that it has something to do with creating memory palaces in your brain.
Here and There
Jen: You’re a Jersey girl right? What was the hardest thing you had to give up when you moved to St.John?
Linda: Leaving my family. Leaving my parents. That was the hardest thing. New Jersey is a toilet. I don’t miss it. The people are angry and its crowded. But I miss my parents. I talk to them everyday and I would see them often.
Jen: It’s tough being away from family. That was the hardest thing for me too. That and the bath tub.
Linda: (laughs) That is the first thing I do when I go back to the states too! Take a bath.
Jen: Raising kids in the Virgin Islands and raising them in New Jersey – what’s the biggest difference?
Linda: Well raising kids in New Jersey, you can get anything you want anytime anywhere. It’s like immediate gratification land. Here we don’t have that. Here you have to really want something. Then go to St.Thomas and find it or order it online. I think that makes the kids appreciate things more because they have to wait. The kids are learning and growing up with a different set of values here than they would have growing up in New Jersey. Of course it really depends on the school they are attending too. We had some really bad experiences here but now we are in “Gifft Hill School” and it’s really been a positive experience for them.
Jen: What do you think it is about “Gifft Hill School” that makes it better than the other options?
Linda: I think it’s a kind school. They teach kindness. Bullying is not tolerated. They nurture that spirit and everyone takes care of each other. They have a new head of school that is just brilliant. I’m just really happy my kids are going there.
Jen: Well kindness is one of those things that you try to teach your kids at home. You’re a huge animal lover. You rescue just about any animal that is out there and nurse them back to health. Snakes, birds, dogs, cats, iguanas you name it. What advice would you give a visitor who encounters a hurt animal or a stray here on St.John?
Linda: Well, if you’re a visitor you don’t have many options. We have one vet on the island so I would drop it off there or take it to the ACC animal care center.
Jen: One of your favorite hobbies is to go paddle boarding. If you were to describe your perfect day on the water. Would it be paddle boarding or something else?
Linda: I just had an incredible boat trip on the “Goddess Athena”. It’s an old wooden sail boat. Most often when you go to Jost Van Dyke, you take a power boat and its big, loud and bumpy. This was a wonderful experience on this big ass sail boat that was like 70-80 feet! But if it’s something I wanted to do to just to get away for a bit, I would go paddle boarding. Sometimes I’ll take off off from work and go paddle boarding, especially if it’s flat calm. I’ll take my headphones and my Ipod and I’ll just tool around in all the bays. I get to see a lot of sea critters that way too.
Jen: What would you say is the best bay for paddle boarding?
Linda: Um, any day that you feel like you are going to scream, is a good day to go paddle boarding.
Jen: (laughs) I actually meant the best “bay”, like beach, not “day”, but that’s really good advice. Can I write that down?
Linda: Yes. I like going from Maho to Francis and back. I like that little loop, it’s nice and calming. It’s long enough and scenic and it’s easy to get in because I can drive right up to Maho and not have to cart the board too far.
Take the Bourbon Off the Shelf…
Jen: You are a cocktail enthusiast. What is your current favorite cocktail?
Linda: Anything that Steven makes at “Extra Virgin” with bourbon. I love bourbon a lot. I like Angel’s Envy bourbon and I like Bullet those are my 2 favorites.
Jen: Straight up, neat, on the rocks?
Linda: Neat. But you know bartenders can make all kinds of really fun things with that. Steven at “Extra Virgin” made something with champagne and bourbon.
Jen: Who is this? Where is this? Yet another new place to try!
Linda: He’s this kid Steven who is a bartender at “Extra Virgin”. It’s the new restaurant that took over from where Fatty Crabs was.
Jen: Ooooh. That has happened recently then. Ok, same location, different name. Gotcha.
Linda: Yah. Its a really great restaurant. A local chef owns it. Where are my brain vitamins? Tommy is his name.
Managing Island Time
Jen: Will you indulge me with a few more questions about being in business on St.John? What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of going into business here?
Linda: It’s more difficult here. It’s more time consuming than in the states. For example I closed on Nest July 1st and my bank account was not active until September. I went to get my VI driver’s license and they told me the computers were down and wouldn’t be fixed for a month. How is that even possible? I got solar panels installed at my house in February. I have net metering and they still haven’t hooked it up yet. They told me they are waiting to schedule an appointment for me. It’s now November.
Jen: So your best advice is to learn how to paddle board.
Linda: Yes. You’re going to do a lot of paddle boarding if you go into business here.