At 39, Rashidi Clenance moves faster than when he ran the bases in Little League games on St. Croix and dodges obstacles like he was still streaming past opponents on the Buccaneers basketball court. He speeds from hosting a radio show to emceeing a community function, to organizing tournaments to calling horse races, all with an equal agility.
Through his affiliations with such organizations as Sun Stroke Promotion and Caribbean Education Initiative, he’s been instrumental in getting attention for local causes from national sports stars with V.I. connections such as Tim Duncan. In 2011 the American Advertising Federation of the USVI awarded him the Emerging Leader in Media Award.
He worked in print, radio and television and just launched his own station, which he said “appeals to the Virgin Islands Diaspora.”
In one of his more recent career twists, he has leased the Port Authority building designed to look like an old sugar mill that used to house a visitors center for cruise ship passengers at Crown Bay, and turned it into the Win Mill sports bar.
He opened in late March and has already hosted a few special events, including the premiere of WTJX’s documentary on Virgin Islands riders in the Kentucky Derby and a party celebrating the premiere of “Timeless” an all-Virgin Islands feature length film.
“In all there’s 12 TVs in the bar,” he said. “We’ve got the NBA package, we’ve got cricket every day, and international soccer every day …”
You name it, he’s showing it. In two different directions, five screens form an X so, he said, “Without turning your head, you can watch five different sports at one time.” With the guy next to you loudly reacting to the play he just saw, you sort of have to get involved too, and the excitement level crescendos.
There are other touches, like the custom-made tables built by My Brothers Workshop members. One’s in the shape of a football. The round ones are each painted to represent a different type of game ball. The bar stool footrests look like baseball bats.
What really sets the bar apart is the abundance of Virgin Islands sports memorabilia on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and decorating the stairway – so much of it that Clenance refers to the bar as a sports museum. He’s gathered much of it because of his lifelong personal and professional association with local athletes and his pride in their accomplishments.
Framed newspaper clippings include an 1898 article about Peter Jackson, the international boxing sensation whose biggest “defeat” was not by any opponent but by the color barrier that kept him out of the ring to prove his prowess against some of the most notable white fighters of his day. While some accounts refer to him as coming from Australia, where he grew to manhood and to fame, he was actually born on St. Croix.
Another boxing champion from the Virgin Islands, Julius Jackson (no relation) is represented at the Win Mill by a pair of his boxing trunks. Also on display are jerseys of a number of island athletes who have made names for themselves on U.S. and world teams in a multitude of fields. Clenance points with pride to Duncan’s championship jersey worn in Game 4 in 2014; Ronald Clarke’s jersey worn in the 1979 NCAA Michigan State (with Magic Johnson) defeat of Indiana State (and Larry Bird;) Rakeem Christmas’ orange No. 25 college jersey; David Vanterpool’s Washington Wizards jersey and a photo of him after he began coaching the Portland Trailblazers.
Strung along the banister on the stairs are pennants, each from a team with which a V.I. athlete has had an affiliation.
“We really have a sports history,” Clenance said. “We pride ourselves on V.I. pride…It’s so much more than a bar and making money … We certainly are a hometown bar.”
While he’s been busy cultivating a local following, Clenance also welcomes tourists to the establishment and is always happy to educate them about V.I. stars.
“Sport’s the common denominator,” he said.
Televised games are not the only entertainment at the bar. It features its own version of karaoke, dubbed “KariJokey” and has a short row of video lottery terminals, managed by Southland Gaming, for those who like to gamble.
Soon there will be food available too. Clenance described the menu as featuring general “bar food.” He said he has no intention of adding “chef” to his list of jobs.
“I am just the owner,” he joked. “I wouldn’t disservice my customers by cooking.”
Anyway, he’s got enough on his plate already.
“It’s been difficult in the early going,” he said. “It’s a costly venture … I rented (the building) as is.”
He knew there were some leaks but didn’t know the air conditioning needed major repairs. Getting his lease approved took time and early on, he found he had to buy out his partner (who he declined to name.) All of that, plus long work hours, can take a toll. But it hasn’t dulled the shine.
“I always wanted a sports bar from the time I was in high school,” Clenance said. He worked in one when he lived on St. Croix. After he moved to St. Thomas, he spotted the Crown Bay site and decided it could be the perfect site.