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@Work: Barefoot Buddha Café

May 17, 2009 — The Barefoot Buddha Café in Havensight is its own small community, and that's what owners Shanna James and Justine Callwood had in mind two years ago when they decided to open the indoor-outdoor eatery.
The locale has its own kind of aura; it attracts kindred spirits, reflecting the hopeful idea that "if you build it, they will come." And they have. They have come in numbers sufficient to sustain the business, while enjoying the sustainable produce.
There's a neighborhood feel to the café. It offers magazines, most with an environmental focus; a boutique to explore with locally made jewelry and art; and a small library from which to pick the perfect silent dining companion.
James, admittedly the more vocal of the two owners, holds forth. She is petite, with soft brown eyes, a seemingly gentle nature until she gets into her passions, including healthy living, caring for the environment, recycling and eating locally produced super foods.
We sit at one of the hand-painted tables embossed with Asian imagery as the morning crowd drops in to check mail — email at the Internet component, or old-fashioned paper in the stands of old-fashioned metal mail boxes, or to have a fresh vegetable breakfast frittata, washed down with organically grown free trade coffee or tea.
"It's a community house," James says of the eatery, the closest thing St. Thomas has to a coffeehouse. "That's the whole idea. It's doing the right thing in business. Putting that aspect into practice, we use almost all local produce."
James is, in fact, a principal of Grow V.I., a local non-profit geared toward the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
Callwood's take on why they founded the café differs somewhat from James. It's more practical.
"We both really love coffee," she says with a laugh.
To that end, in July they will start selling their own coffee.
"We're getting our own roaster," James says, her enthusiasm spilling over. "And we'll have our own signature brand — free trade, of course."
They spent four months they spent creating the cafe's welcoming ambiance.
"It was a lot of work," Callwood says. "I jack-hammered the floor tiles. I like the idea of the high ceilings, but by the windows the ceiling drops, so we covered it with bamboo."
The bamboo complements the deep red walls. And it reflects the bright red umbrellas at the outside tables. The open kitchen is at the back, fronted by fresh baked breads and muffins and a coffee bar, alongside the Internet connections.
"I'm the health nut," James says of the partnership. "I handle the menus, marketing, managing the website. I'm the spokesperson for the mission. Justine does the basic fundamental stuff, the bureaucratic end of things."
They maintain an active relationship with the community, with a signup board for Grow V.I. and other healthy endeavors. Next month, James says, they will initiate a movie night with films geared toward ecology, followed by a coffee discussion session.
Last fall they hosted a weekend Whole Earth Festival outside in the patio area. It featured alternative healing information, experts on wind and solar energy, advice on composting and recycling and sustainable farming.
As we chat, James brings her staff into the conversation.
"You have to talk to Corey," she says. "She believes everything we are about."
Corey Baker — baker, cook — is happy to share her experience.
"I came in one day, and I just knew I had to work here," she says. "That was it. I went home and told my husband. It was the most amazing feeling. I brought him in, and he agreed."
Her passions dovetail with those of the owners.
"I have a passion for cooking with fresh ingredients," Baker says, "and I've been able to experiment from baking to soups and special dishes. I get to try out new things."
They get all the produce possible locally, at this point, about 50 percent – kale, eggplant and tomatoes from St. Thomas, and lettuces from Ray Hamilton of the Farmers Cooperative on St. Croix.
Sometimes it's very local, as when James or Baker go out to the patio to pluck a few basil leaves from their small herb garden.
James leads the way to one of her pet projects: the Green Map, situated on one complete wall in the boutique.
"Edney Freeman, the art teacher from Charlotte Amalie High School did this for us," she says.
It's an amazing construction, beautifully detailed.
"It highlights all the things to do on the island," James says. "Hiking trails, snorkeling, diving areas, sailing areas, spiritual meeting places, organic farms. It's part of a global eco-cultural movement. It gives visitors an option to explore the island away from the shops."
The café is open seven days from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone 777-3668.
For a peek at the menus, visit barefootbuddha.vi.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

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May 17, 2009 -- The Barefoot Buddha Café in Havensight is its own small community, and that's what owners Shanna James and Justine Callwood had in mind two years ago when they decided to open the indoor-outdoor eatery.
The locale has its own kind of aura; it attracts kindred spirits, reflecting the hopeful idea that "if you build it, they will come." And they have. They have come in numbers sufficient to sustain the business, while enjoying the sustainable produce.
There's a neighborhood feel to the café. It offers magazines, most with an environmental focus; a boutique to explore with locally made jewelry and art; and a small library from which to pick the perfect silent dining companion.
James, admittedly the more vocal of the two owners, holds forth. She is petite, with soft brown eyes, a seemingly gentle nature until she gets into her passions, including healthy living, caring for the environment, recycling and eating locally produced super foods.
We sit at one of the hand-painted tables embossed with Asian imagery as the morning crowd drops in to check mail -- email at the Internet component, or old-fashioned paper in the stands of old-fashioned metal mail boxes, or to have a fresh vegetable breakfast frittata, washed down with organically grown free trade coffee or tea.
"It's a community house," James says of the eatery, the closest thing St. Thomas has to a coffeehouse. "That's the whole idea. It's doing the right thing in business. Putting that aspect into practice, we use almost all local produce."
James is, in fact, a principal of Grow V.I., a local non-profit geared toward the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
Callwood's take on why they founded the café differs somewhat from James. It's more practical.
"We both really love coffee," she says with a laugh.
To that end, in July they will start selling their own coffee.
"We're getting our own roaster," James says, her enthusiasm spilling over. "And we'll have our own signature brand -- free trade, of course."
They spent four months they spent creating the cafe's welcoming ambiance.
"It was a lot of work," Callwood says. "I jack-hammered the floor tiles. I like the idea of the high ceilings, but by the windows the ceiling drops, so we covered it with bamboo."
The bamboo complements the deep red walls. And it reflects the bright red umbrellas at the outside tables. The open kitchen is at the back, fronted by fresh baked breads and muffins and a coffee bar, alongside the Internet connections.
"I'm the health nut," James says of the partnership. "I handle the menus, marketing, managing the website. I'm the spokesperson for the mission. Justine does the basic fundamental stuff, the bureaucratic end of things."
They maintain an active relationship with the community, with a signup board for Grow V.I. and other healthy endeavors. Next month, James says, they will initiate a movie night with films geared toward ecology, followed by a coffee discussion session.
Last fall they hosted a weekend Whole Earth Festival outside in the patio area. It featured alternative healing information, experts on wind and solar energy, advice on composting and recycling and sustainable farming.
As we chat, James brings her staff into the conversation.
"You have to talk to Corey," she says. "She believes everything we are about."
Corey Baker -- baker, cook -- is happy to share her experience.
"I came in one day, and I just knew I had to work here," she says. "That was it. I went home and told my husband. It was the most amazing feeling. I brought him in, and he agreed."
Her passions dovetail with those of the owners.
"I have a passion for cooking with fresh ingredients," Baker says, "and I've been able to experiment from baking to soups and special dishes. I get to try out new things."
They get all the produce possible locally, at this point, about 50 percent – kale, eggplant and tomatoes from St. Thomas, and lettuces from Ray Hamilton of the Farmers Cooperative on St. Croix.
Sometimes it's very local, as when James or Baker go out to the patio to pluck a few basil leaves from their small herb garden.
James leads the way to one of her pet projects: the Green Map, situated on one complete wall in the boutique.
"Edney Freeman, the art teacher from Charlotte Amalie High School did this for us," she says.
It's an amazing construction, beautifully detailed.
"It highlights all the things to do on the island," James says. "Hiking trails, snorkeling, diving areas, sailing areas, spiritual meeting places, organic farms. It's part of a global eco-cultural movement. It gives visitors an option to explore the island away from the shops."
The café is open seven days from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone 777-3668.
For a peek at the menus, visit barefootbuddha.vi.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.