A Breadfruit Tree Independence

A Breadfruit Tree Independence

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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As we continue from last week's reflection of the multifaceted nature of the rum industry, an industry with a deep heritage connected to sugar production but also a connection to the hearts of the people of Jamaica, we move forward to a direct spin-off, our local community bars. Today, we check in at the Breadfruit Tree Bar, located on Lady Musgrave Road.

Murphy Johnson has been the proprietor/owner of this establishment for the past 26 years. Johnson explained that the bar opened in the 1960s, a little after Jamaica gained its Independence, and has continued operations ever since.

Thursday Food (TF): Describe the vibe of the Breadfruit Tree Bar.

Murphy Johnson (MJ): Breadfruit Tree Bar offers a vintage vibe. Patrons are more like family as they have been visiting the bar for many years.

TF: How do you feel about the Independence Holiday this year versus previous years?

MJ: We are still enjoying our Independence holidays. The fact that we still get to see many of our customers is reason to celebrate. During the Independence holidays we usually play the festival songs, as well as Jamaican reggae music. This year is no different. We are still having a great time with our friends and family. Independence means a lot to me.

TF: How has COVID-19 affected your business?

MJ: Due to the closure of bars, we lost about 40% revenue. However, we are steadily recouping some of our losses and we expect to level off by the end of the year. We are very optimistic, and our customers are very good to us.

TF: What's the drink of choice at Breadfruit Tree?

MJ: White rum and Ting is a very fast seller. We create different specials for our patrons so that they get value for their money. For summer, we are pushing the MonyTing Special (Monymusk white overproof rum and Ting). The patrons love it, as the mix is very smooth with no hangovers!

TF: How do you feel about your business for the rest of 2020?

MJ: I am very positive. My clients are steadily returning, and we are also seeing new faces. Many persons view this place as their home; my bartender Arlene Hodges has been with our operation for the past 21 years! We are family here!

Meet bartender Arlene Hodges

TF: Having worked at Breadfruit Tree Bar for 21 years, what has kept you here for these many years?

Arlene Hodges (AH): The bartender role at Breadfruit Tree Bar was my third job. When I came here, I loved the place. The atmosphere was very family-oriented. My bosses, Mr Murphy and his wife, were great people who cared about my well-being. My customers made my job easy as they were friendly. On my week off, they would call me to find out why I was not at work or even ask that I come in on my days off. Sometimes I did. My customers became my family; they treated me well and I also ensured I offered the best customer service possible. My customers have been around for a long time. I get no harassment; my customers are always very supportive, and we have developed great relationships over these years.

Breadfruit Tree Bar has been my source of income and the source of my achievements. I did not complete formal school but from my salary, I ensured I saved, paid my partner each week and ensured my two daughters, Sashelle and Toni-Ann, went to school and university, The University of the West Indies and Caribbean Maritime University. What I was unable to do for myself, I made sure I did it for my girls. Even though my girls are now adults — one is now married — I still look out for them and pay attention to them. When they were growing up, no matter what time I came home from work, I would check their homework and prepare their uniforms and lunch for school the next day. Life was hard as a single parent, but I always wanted to do good by my girls. I was also able to purchase my own home through the National Housing Trust. My daughters sometimes ask if I am not tired of working. I remind them of all that we have achieved by me working at Breadfruit Tree Bar. I love my job and would not have it any other way.

TF: What advice would you give to younger bartenders?

AH: I would encourage them that as long as they are happy with their jobs, to stay there and build up themselves, work hard and save. Go back to school if you can and develop yourselves. If they have children, ensure that they continue to give attention to them. As bartenders, we work very long hours but we still have to make time for our family. Another thing is to save and try to register with NHT and pay your contributions so that when the time comes, you can access a loan towards purchasing your home.

Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. For August, we will focus on the amazing zinfandel varietal. Looking forward to your feedback and comments!

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek them relentlessly. Please share with me your wines, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at debbiansm@gmail.com, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology, Jamaica

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