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At long last, the highly anticipated restaurant opening of the year, The Easterly is officially open as of February 1 and the island has been buzzing since, high on their fresh food, refreshing drinks, unique ambiance, and overall story. Our Instagram feeds have been an endless loop of rosemary and charred sea salt-rimmed glasses, fall-off-the-bone lamb, and Tulum-inspired, stunning decor (it is like an Instagram model’s dream backdrop on steroids–and we aren’t mad about it). Many east-enders and the like have been waiting for this moment for quite some time so we were so excited to be invited to their sneak peek opening night on St. Thomas on January 25. It was everything we expected and then some (and we were probably following their Instagram stories as closely as anyone else). No detail was skipped, from the well thought out comfortable, and classy black linen staff uniforms, to the branded cocktail napkins, to the perfectly crisp plantain chips with assorted dipping sauces and other hors d’oeuvres, and the drinks, oh the drinks. We could go on for a while. The place was bustling, everyone was enjoying themselves and no one seemed anything less than floored. And now almost a month later, with a quick drive by the restaurant, you will see seats still packed, happy faces and an energetic staff attending to guests.
Being the fans that we are, we wanted to ask owner Clint Gaskin some questions about his project as we know it was no easy feat.
Q&A with Owner Clint Gaskins
What To Do VI: What originally inspired you guys to open The Easterly?
Clint: We were very intrigued by the more rustic and simple approach to cuisine happening in the Western Caribbean, specifically the areas surrounding the Yucatan. In our opinion, some of the best seafood in the world is of a more rustic nature, most of the time by necessity. If we could reproduce that, utilizing our abundance of local seafood, we felt like we could deliver an inviting and approachable food-driven concept.
What To Do VI: Have you been in the hospitality industry most of your adult life? What led you to it?
Clint: Collectively, our partners have 55-65 years of experience in the industry. Most of us started in the dish pits in the high school years and worked our way through the kitchens and some of us out to the service end of things. Initially, it was job, but I grew to enjoy the service industry and truly became a student of the entire industry in my 20’s. I was immersed. I job hopped a bunch to see different venues and service styles. I quickly realized I could be an asset to not only my owners/bosses, but maybe improving at least my little corner of the industry. I have worked in just about every level of concept and venue that exists, from pizza shops to night clubs, to 5-star hotels and 4 diamond restaurants. I made the leap to the ownership side in 2010, with a trendy little cocktail bar in Charleston, SC. The Easterly is part of a greater restaurant/hospitality group, called Ballast Hospitality.
What To Do VI: The Easterly was a process that began 2.5 years ago and was massively disrupted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we know you had major obstacles to overcome in getting this project up and going. With that, what helped to make the process a little easier?
Clint: I would say that the people that we have done projects with in the past… from architect and designers to sheet metal installers… are truly what made this come together. We are dialed in really well with our core vendors and working with them is a breeze.
What To Do VI: Do you have any other restaurants? If so, where are those and what are their concepts?
Clint: The Longboard – St. John, USVI – 2015’ The Longboard – Sullivan’s Island, SC – Opening Late Summer 2020
Excerpt taken from the Daily News Article. “We were traveling down here a lot, liked the area and started looking at potentially doing a restaurant,” said Gaskins. “We felt like some concepts on the island were underserving the tourist base that was coming in and also the local base. We wanted a light, airy approach to what people expect when they step off the beach or get off the plane for a week in the Caribbean.” The laid-back Caribbean-inspired cantina offers a menu inspired by flavors from coastal regions around the globe using fresh produce and fresh local fish plus some more unusual ingredients not frequently found in the islands. Small plates are the draw here, and people are encouraged to share over sips of their signature Frozen Painkiller. The need for a chef change brought Kenny Claxton to the table, formerly of The Terrace on St. John. Claxton joined the partnership, and they were casting their net for new opportunities.
What To Do VI: What are your goals with this establishment?
Clint: It was in a great location, kind of the gateway to the BVI, a tourist hub for that side of the island. From a cuisine standpoint, we wanted to highlight the seafood that is down here and do it all with a very simple, more rustic form of cooking and presentation. We also wanted to do all this in a communal and social setting, where you can come in with friends and share small plates.” Overall we want to push the limits for dining in St. Thomas. We want to bring trendier concepts, exceptional spaces, uber-fresh products and take people away from the norm. We’ve made a large investment in the community for both locals and tourists alike, and we simply want to share that vision for many years to come.
What To Do VI: If you could give a local business owner any one piece of advice, what would that be? If you could give a VI traveler one piece of advice what would it be?
Clint: Business Owner: Find your own identity. So much of what is offered on St. Thomas and surrounding islands is repetitive. It’s a disservice to locals and tourists, to continuously offer the same products and concepts. If we diversify within the business community, we create a better global product, and in this case with St. Thomas, it creates a better tourism product. Traveler: Demand an experience and fresh products. I see so many travelers settle for what is available and it is frustrating. It is very expensive to fly and stay in the USVI and that typically brings a more discerning/affluent traveler. Stop settling for piles of fried food, burgers and frozen seafood. Demand more. Demand fresh. Demand an experience.
What To Do VI: Did you grow up in the VI? If so, what was your favorite part about growing up here, if not, what made you move here and what do you love most about it?
Clint: I did not grow up in the USVI. I began traveling here when I was sailing in 2005. I was in the restaurant industry at that time, also dabbling in Real Estate. I traveled down a great amount and kept watching the market and available locations. I currently split time between Charleston, SC, and St. Thomas/St. John.
What To Do VI: What are your plans for the future?
Clint: We operate Ballast Hospitality, a management company that provides operational/management support to our operations in the USVI. We are positioned to continue to grow in the future and hope to continue to secure great properties and offer highly conceptualized projects to the Virgin Islands.