Out of Many, Two
On The Front Line... Juliet & Justine Masters Proprietors, The Edge HarlemThursday, May 28, 2020
Take two sisters with roots in Jamaica, New York and London — Juliet's a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute and has over 15 years' experience in the culinary arts, while Justine, who comes with a background in real estate, fashion, and music, curates the ambience and the décor, while also managing the world music sound that keeps patrons curious and entertained. Add a generous serving of seasoning, allow to marinate and then slowly reduce. The result will place you firmly at The Edge, Edgecombe Avenue, Harlem, where the Masterses have presided for the last 18 years and nourished their community in a setting that harks back to the Harlem Renaissance, when literary giants like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston once presided there.
The menu reflects the Jamaican motto 'Out of Many, One', and indeed the sisters' lives from their birthplace in New York, to summers with their grandmother on Par Drive, Kingston, Jamaica, to the United Kingdom at their mother's home. It's been a tantalising journey based on offerings like coconut fish burgers, curried chicken salad with mixed greens and plantains; shrimp and parmesan grits, buttermilk pancakes and berries; savoury pie of the day and fish and chips. It has been a rewarding, albeit 'buck-up' journey, drizzled with highs and lows. Long story short, The Edge, which opened in 2014 as, according to Eater NY, 'a risk that's paying off', happened when the sisters, facing eviction (the owner was selling), were forced to rent commercial space. There was no business plan, investors or restaurant ownership experience, but, feeling that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they forged ahead until they eventually found a safety net. Or so they thought. “COVID-19 literally came from nowhere,” Justine shares with Thursday Food. “We were first told to reduce our diners by 50 per cent and then were told that it was delivery/pick-up only!”
It was a jolt that they are still recovering from. They moved into survival mode and, in their own words, “for the past 63 days we have had to close our dining room to the public and offer only delivery and takeout. When the pandemic hit, we chose not to close but remain open for delivery and takeout. Restaurants are a place of gathering and community. It has been a challenge to try and replicate an in-house dining experience through pick-up and delivery. We are located in a residential neighbourhood so we are feeding families as well as those living alone, so our menu reflects the diversity of our customers and their needs”.
Juliet and Justine Masters have been able to retain almost half of their staff and are already contemplating their place in an industry that has changed forever. Their advice to fellow restaurateurs:
Always stay level-headed and find the solution.
Be smart and fearless. Understand that challenges are great teachers. Use this moment to find creative ways to flip and pivot your business to meet the new needs of your customers.
NYC is full of options and choices even in a pandemic. Consistency is important. Streamlining your delivery is key to survival. Offering discounts to loyal/repeat customers is beneficial to both the restaurant and customer.
Daily specials are key to keeping this fresh and “exciting” in these times.
Use social media to keep in touch with your customer base and keep them abreast of how your business is evolving and how they can support you. People want to support! Create ways for them to do so – gift cards, offer specials, promotions, giveaways, etc.
As far as recovery is concerned, it is going to be a long road here in NYC. We are going to follow all guidelines provided to the restaurant industry with regard to the safety of both the customer and the staff. It is a day-by-day situation.
Editor's Note: The reopening of restaurants forms Phase 3 of New York City's recovery plan. The city is currently readying for Phase 1.
The Edge Harlem
Address: 101 Edgecombe Avenue, New York, NY 10030
Tele #: 212.939.9688
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