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Mother-father duo paves way for kids

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 31, 2014    

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BORN out of a desire to do business but with absolutely no expertise in the area, a mother-father duo, who are the owners of Father Bull Restaurant, Bar and Jerk Centre is committed to laying the foundation so their children can one day operate a regional company.

Lennox Robinson started out with just a bar in 1990 in Walderston, Manchester. To date, he has added another location in Long Bay, St James, as well as expanded his business to also include a jerk centre and restaurant. However, his sights are set on locations across the island and, ultimately, locations across the region.

"I just wanted to do business and that (a bar) was the easiest thing at the time for me, because I had no knowledge of business overall, didn't go to any school or anything like that," Robinson told the Jamaica Observer in an interview on Thursday.

Though being the "easiest thing at the time", Robinson said getting started was hard.

"It was very difficult to get it started because there was no understanding as to what it should be," Robinson explained. "You're just learning as you go along."

Since then, Robinson said his establishment has grown from "just a bar to one of the best jerk (centres) on the island".

The proprietor told the Sunday Observer that through consistent hard work and continuously listening to his customers, his family business is where it is today.

"We started as a bar and then people started asking for something to eat, so we had no choice but to give them food; and so I came up with the idea for the jerk centre," Robinson recalled.

Five years ago, he opened the St James location, which offers a wider variety of the foods including jerk pork, jerk chicken, festival, and soup. According to Robinson, every local cuisine that has traditionally been enjoyed for years, is offered; for example mackerel run down, corn pork, ackee and salt fish, oxtail and cow foot.

"We go through economic issues every day but my point is that whatever road you choose in life, there is a consequence, so we have to just deal with whatever problems we have. It is our breadwinner so we have to just stick with it. Whatever obstacle there is, we have to just work together and pull through and move on," explained Robinson.

When he first ventured into the jerk business, Robinson did the cooking. However, he now has about 25 employees who are mostly members of communities surrounding both restaurants.

Just recently Robinson said a deal was brokered with Red Stripe where they are now co-partners.

"So whatever is going on we inform them (Red Stripe), we talk about it and decide what is best from there," said Robinson, adding that the brew has branded his business. "They are supporting me a lot. We started at the Montego Bay branch and we are going to extend over to Manchester shortly."

Robinson told the Sunday Observer that so far, the relationship has been beneficial because he is kept up-to-date and informed of happenings with Red Stripe.

But he is looking to his son Romone, who is now a third-year marketing student at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and his other children to take his business all the way.

"His education is the future for the business because I can do so much and no more. He has to come and take it on to keep up the dream," Robinson insisted. "If we are going to go to the top, we need to be represented by the top. So, him being educated to the highest level is a plus for us."

Stressing that Romone's education is the vine for the future expansion of Father Bull Restaurant, Bar and Jerk Centre, Robinson said his son is already quite involved in the business.

"He was the one that came up with the Father Bull logo. He has injected a lot of energy into the business, trust me," said an obviously proud Robinson. "From a young age he is always there 100 per cent. He is always involved.

"If we do something and we don't inform him, he gets a bit upset," said Robinson, who has five other children. "It is very encouraging to know that there are so many avenues that he could've taken and he is right here with us, encouraging us, doing what he is supposed to do."

Romone, now 20 years old, agrees that he has a role to play.

"My father is street-smart, so everything he knows is what he has learnt on his own or by trial and error," Romone told the Sunday Observer recently. "So right now I am here in school trying to learn as much, so I can get my knowledge and take the business to a different level.

"Certain key areas teach you about how to deal with people and, for example, different theories you can apply to real life," Romone continued. "I find them to be practical in some ways so that has benefited us a lot."

Besides coming up with a logo for the family business, Romone told this newspaper that he has also done company shirts for staff members, as well as placed the logo on bags because it is important for people to be able to identify Father Bull.

Robinson said of his business: "We are there every day so you are guaranteed whenever you come here, we have a friendly ambience, and we try to keep our service up there.

"We try to keep our image up there and when you get different people coming in and encouraging you from different levels, it encourages us to want to keep working, working and working," continued Robinson. "When you have people who you admire, who have established themselves in business, and they come to you and shake your hand and encourage you, and they tell you they appreciate what you are doing, it is very encouraging."

Robinson manages the Montego Bay branch while his wife, Kerline Johnson, manages the Manchester branch of Father Bull Restaurant, Bar and Jerk Centre.

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