VIDEO: A Mother's Legacy Lives On
COUNTDOWN TO THE 16th ANNUAL TABLE TALK FOOD AWARDS, THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2014
Think Port Royal and food, and like clockwork, Gloria's springs to mind. The historic seaside town — rich with centuries-old tales of scheming pirates, golden treasure troves, and calamitous earth tremors — is home too, to another piece of history: the 42-year-old family-owned Gloria's seafood restaurant.
A sought-after, twin-location culinary outfit, Gloria's remains a definitive seafood haunt as the half-century mark looms on its horizon. Be it Kingston folk or foreign vacationers, business lunch dates or romantic dinners, the restaurant that late family matriarch Gloria Harris started in 1972 has weathered the tide of changing times and unexpected upheavals to still attract solid business -- the wait for tables is not terribly uncommon on a busy holiday.
There was no wait last Tuesday, when Angela Lim-Tom, manager of Gloria's and daughter of the late restaurateur, extended an invite to the Jamaica Observer Food Awards judging panel to enjoy a sunset dinner on the upper deck of the eatery's initial seafront location, dubbed 'the bottom shop'.
The other location, 'top shop', which opened in 1977, is situated a stone's throw away from the town's former Morgan's Harbour Hotel (now under new management, and having undergone a name change to The Grand Port Royal Hotel).
"The journey started with my mother Gloria Harris," Lim-Tom shares with us ahead of the arrival of plates of brown stewed, steamed and fried fish and curried shrimp. "She started out selling egg sandwiches to the fishermen, but many persons encouraged her to start cooking seafood."
New business came Gloria's way as customs, immigration, and airport employees from the nearby Norman Manley airport discovered her fresh, fantastic seafood delights. Even the yacht owners and their sailing parties became prompt and faithful converts.
"There was no lobster and shrimp then; she would do dumplings and rice as sides," Lim-Tom recounted of her entrepreneurial mother's past. "She would be creative and not do curried shrimp, but creole shrimp or shrimp with bacon. The business was named Gloria's Rendezvous then."
Lim-Tom, who has treasured after-school memories of herself and siblings helping out their beloved mother in the early days of the business, noted the transitional shift of Gloria's.
"All my brothers and sisters had migrated and I had no interest in living abroad. I wanted to stay here," she told Thursday Life.
Her mother's passing in 2000, however, left the business in momentary throes of topsy-turvy. "She died suddenly, and it fell into our lap, so it was a whirlwind," Lim-Tom said.
Forces of opposition, she recalled, came out of the woodwork, but resilience and the family rallying together successfully steadied the ship.
Today, the mantle of Gloria's rests squarely on the shoulders of Lim-Tom and her sister Tanya Prawl. The siblings had to deal with their fair share of challenges. A hurricane destroyed the 'top shop' location only a few years ago. "That was a challenge because we were then operating just one restaurant, and then we were renovating the seafront restaurant two years ago and the whole structure crumbled... it's been a real [tough] journey," Lim-Tom explained.
Suffice to say, the crumbled structure was merely a temporary setback. The flagship seafront Gloria's was given a spiffy makeover, now boasting a polished wooden upper deck, and expanded kitchen space retrofitted with a new oven to facilitate the preparation of steamed fish meals.
Four-plus decades into the business, is there a secret recipe to maintain longevity?
"We take pride in our food and believe that food must be freshly prepared. We use natural seasoning all the time, no artificial ingredients, so it's a plus," Lim-Tom offered up as the core reasons behind continued success.
As for what's on tap for Gloria's, the manager revealed: "We are trying to incorporate a Lime Cay link with Gloria's for the summer. We're thinking of either taking the meals there, or persons can have the meals here. It's not yet finalised."
"We are also updating our menu, and will be adding conch salad and perhaps calamari as well."