Overseas Life Redesign

Episode 53: Rosa Sirena's Sound Counsel with Deborah Crinigan

September 13, 2021 Dawn Fleming Season 3 Episode 53
Overseas Life Redesign
Episode 53: Rosa Sirena's Sound Counsel with Deborah Crinigan
Show Notes Transcript

As a partner of a national law firm, trial attorney Deborah Crinigan appeared to have it all: a high powered career, a big historical home, travel to her second home in paradise at will.  At age 48 a midlife call was a reminder that her father had died at age 53. Her home in Isla Mujeres, Mexico was a siren's call to a happier, healthier and joyous life.  She and her husband Willy have transformed the  humble barrio home into one of Isla Mujeres' premier restaurants with stunning rooftop Caribbean views, live entertainment, an impressive wine list and more.  https://www.facebook.com/rosasirenasrestaurant

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Welcome. You are listening to the Overseas Life Redesign podcast where you'll hear fine, relaxed and inspirational interviews with people who are really living the dream. I'm Dawn Fleming and attorney turned alchemist and your host for the show coming to you from the tropical island paradise of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Listen to conversations with courageous souls who step out of their comfort zone and designed a new way of life. They'll share their experiences, wisdom, and offer practical steps you can take to redesign your life overseas. Listen, and you'll believe if you can dream it. You can achieve it.

Dawn Fleming

  00:43 - 01:25

I'm here today with Deborah Crinigan and she and her husband, Willie are the proprietors of Rosa Serena's restaurant. One of the premier restaurants in Eastern new HEDIS with an amazing view of the Caribbean. And I'm delighted that you took the time to talk with me today and share your story. It's I know it's amazing and I'm really thrilled to hear your story. So you're welcome being the logical minded attorney. I'd like to start at the beginning. And, I know we've talked a little bit before and you've been coming here almost as long as I have the late nineties, which is a long time. We've seen a lot of changes in the island. If you wouldn't mind sharing, like how, what prompted this, this move to this lovely paradise that we're privileged to live in.

Deborah Crinigan

  01:25 - 01:37

I started coming to Isabella Harris in 1998 with, two good friends of mine from Philadelphia, Barbara back-end, Jimmy who lived over by the airport here on the island.

Deborah Crinigan

  01:37 - 02:41

and we started vacationing hair all together. A group of friends, we used to stay at knob Balaam. And then, in 2003, they purchased a property that they've renovated, over by the airport. And then in 2005, I decided to do the same thing, except prices have been rising on the island. So I purchased a property in Colonia material, logical, which is about a three block Colonia, very small one, here in the middle of Isla Mujeres I was an area that wasn't really developed yet. and there wasn't really a lot of foreign owned businesses in this, in this area. And that's changed, in, in that short amount of time, right Yes, it's changed dramatically. Villa Labella was a bed and breakfast, Ashley and Curtis minority here in the neighborhood and had started developing their bed and breakfast. And there was actually another couple from Philadelphia.

Deborah Crinigan

  02:41 - 03:48

The Ramonda is here, but other than that, there really wasn't, any foreigners. So I was definitely the single redheaded lawyer from Philadelphia in the neighborhood. And everybody knew that everybody's super friendly. So I liked having a home here. I got along very well with my neighbors who are very hardworking people, lots of fishermen and taxi drivers in the neighborhood. And, everybody really knew each other and multi-generation or multiple generations of families staying in the respective structures. So you kind of get to know everybody, all the little kids or whatever, the people part of, the neighborhoods here. And I would know all the children and, it was one of the special things about arriving here. Everybody wants a big hug when you come in on the weekend and, definitely something amazing to share with my friends also. So when I purchased the structure, it was a renovation project.

Deborah Crinigan

  03:48 - 04:41

I was too nervous to build from scratch because as a trial attorney, I had a national practice. so I may be called to trial anywhere in the United States. And it wouldn't have been anybody here to watch the project since I didn't have a partner or a husband at that time. So my one-year renovation project took about four years, just residential. I strictly used it as a residential structure. I didn't rent it out or use it as an investment property. I just used it as a vacation, basically as a weekend house because Philadelphia has an international airport and sodas Cancun. There were multiple flights a day. It was super easy to get here. as a woman, I had all of my things here, so I could literally just fly in my suit and with a passport and then fly out to the next place I had to go to court or where I had to be on one day.

Deborah Crinigan

  04:41 - 05:38

So that's kind of how it got started here. Okay. And so when you started, so you did not have the vision for the restaurant at that point, I never had a vision for any restaurant. I was a partner in a large law firm, white and Williams in Philadelphia, and had been a lawyer my entire career. And I had been a partner for more than 12 or 13 years at the time I retired. So I didn't really have a vision, for a restaurant, I continued to work on the property and I'll continue to use it as a weekend house and a vacation home well into 2017. And it was around 2016 or 2017 that I, I was about 48 years old. And, my father had died very young at 53. So I had started to think about whether I was truly happy.

Deborah Crinigan

  05:38 - 06:39

And if I only had five years left, was I really living my best life. So those questions started to nag at me a little bit. And, from a superficial materialistic perspective, my, life was great in Philadelphia. I, you know, enjoy my practice. I had a historic home there. I traveled extensively for work. but I, I really felt like something was missing, fast forward a little bit. I met my, now husband, Willie chacan. Willie is Mexican. He is from Aqua polka originally, which is in Guerrero state. He also had a very long history here on the island. He had lived here between 1993 and 2005, but we never met during that period of time. They lived in the United States and Michigan from oh five to 2015, and then he moved back to Islam or Harris in 2015.

Deborah Crinigan

  06:39 - 07:37

And that's when we met. So while I didn't have a vision for a restaurant, when Willie and I decided to get married, I decided that I would retire after 25 years from the practice of law and start a different life. So Willie had suggested he had worked as a chef and as a musician and had bands for all of his careers. So he had suggested that maybe a restaurant was the answer. since he had a lot of experience myself, I had no experience. I had not even waitress restaurant in my entire life. I was a lifeguard when I was a kid. So I had no experience in the restaurant industry and my husband, while he had experience as a chef, he did not have any experience in running a business other than running a band. Right. so it was definitely a, we learned a lot in the last couple of years along the way.

Deborah Crinigan

  07:37 - 08:39

Did you find that daunting or did you like ignorance is bliss You didn't know what was coming. So I found it, I found it very daunting, but, one of the things of being smart, I always say is knowing what you don't know about. So I immediately sought counsel from there were other successful foreign owned businesses here, variety of types, people who had all been in business successfully more than 15 years. So for a long time, they had probably seen all of the problems come and go. so I, I was able to talk to the folks from Texas who owned soggy peso, the owner of Jack's bar grill, which is going to be celebrating their 20th anniversary here on the island, the owners of Villa Labella. I was very good friends also with, Wayne Mar and Corrina Maldonado who own Reese's, who had been there Mexican owners of braces for about 10 years.

Deborah Crinigan

  08:40 - 09:24

so I was able to collectively talk to people and ask them questions about how they got things done. Did they have any tips on getting things accomplished How did they organize things And the one thing I found was no one did anything exactly the same way. So we were willing and I knew we were going to have to find our own path, but respecting all the, the success of all those other folks and their successes and the things they talked about, his failures, where they read this step, where they stopped and they changed things that they could save us from having the same problems. we really consider ourselves very lucky to have help from those.

Dawn Fleming

  09:23 - 09:37

I'm glad you shared that because that's something that we see frequently with first, next paths, right You don't know what you don't know. And, one of the gals I work with just said that, you know, I came here with all these questions spent a week.

Dawn Fleming

  09:37 - 09:47

It was like, I have more questions now, but at least I know what questions to ask where before, when she arrived, she didn't even know that these were questions that she should be asking. So, okay.

Deborah Crinigan

  09:47 - 10:27

I would think it would be very naive to go into a brand new, any type of brand new business in Mexico and not a thank you. We're going to need to ask questions and get help, right. Besides having an accountant and a lawyer and, all the other people you need to help you. it's just very helpful. And you'll find, I think you'll find the people. these were all friends of mine for a very long time, but people are willing to help you like absolutely lying to us now with questions about all kinds of things. And we try to lead them in the right directions.

Dawn Fleming

  10:27 - 10:32

In other words, you need a lawyer to do this. Here's a recommendation, or you need an accountant or,

Deborah Crinigan

  10:32 - 11:18

or just because you came here on vacation one time doesn't mean you're willing, you're ready to relocate to an island. Perhaps you'd want to rent a place here for a while and see it's not for everybody. So I had decided to relocate without ever living here for an extended period of time, but don't forget. I had been a property owner here and had, spent time here and also had plenty of the problems that property owners have over a 15 year period. So, even with that experience, it was still brand new to start to start a business well, and to live here full time. Right. Do you still have a place back in the I, after we opened the restaurant, eventually I sold my house.

Deborah Crinigan

  11:18 - 12:05

It was a lot of space for me to hold on to if it had just been a condo, maybe I wouldn't have sold it, but it was a historic house. So I sold lots and lots of maintenance, but I still have lots of friends from living in Philadelphia for 29 years. So I'm sure pretty much always have a place to stay when I go back. Nice. Yeah. Cause a lot of people do maintain the two and it does get to be a lot if you do it in a full-size manner. But I like to have a small condominium in Philadelphia. Maybe I'll contemplate doing that in the future. I didn't need a historic with that amount of maintenance of four bedrooms. And it was just way too much to maintain both things. And really, I only go to Philadelphia maybe four or five times a year for a week at a time.

Dawn Fleming

  12:05 - 12:14

Not right. So I'm curious, did you sell it furnished or what did one of the things that comes up frequently is the stuff well,

Deborah Crinigan

  12:14 - 13:03

my start, right, because I had owned this property for a long time, this property was fully furnished. I had hired a, found that the best thing for me to do, was I had hired a carpenter in Timo Simon, which is the town of carpenter's outside of, via the lead. I had taken a friend of mine who spoke Spanish with me, who helped me negotiate initially. Cause at that time I didn't have, I have some Spanish now, but at that time I didn't have any. And that carpenter did the first contract and did very well. So then I gave him more and more. So he basically built all the furniture for my residents, and all the doors and all the closets and everything over maybe a 15 month period.

Deborah Crinigan

  13:04 - 13:53

We, interestingly enough, we went back when we were, building the restaurant. I couldn't remember the gentleman's name because it was 15 years ago, but I remembered she was, trace our motto S carpenter is three blocks. So we were having trouble, getting the type of chairs we wanted for tables that had bigger bottoms encouraged back. So they be Constable. So we went back to the town of and found three brothers. They were still in business and hire the same fellow Ohh fabulous! chair for the, for the restaurant. Yes. So he came back to work for us again and did all the work for the restaurant. He is a lot of people who work for him now he's older, but we used the same guy.

Dawn Fleming

  13:53 - 13:59

Yeah. That, that happens a lot here. It's not like in the states where things come and go a lot.

Deborah Crinigan

  13:59 - 14:19

It seems like there's the use. You see that And especially the generational. yes. Even though I couldn't find his phone number, I went right back to the small town and sure enough, there a sign there it is serious. And he recognized me right away. yeah. So we were able to do business with him also when we were building the restaurant.

Dawn Fleming

  14:18 - 14:33

Awesome. Well, the restaurant's amazing. I mean, you have all this wonderful artwork. Can you talk to me about the theme How did you come up with Rosa Serena And then you've got like all this great, mermaid

Deborah Crinigan

  14:33 - 14:54

it's kind of, the house itself when I had purchased the property and was renovating it. I was single, so I painted the entire house pink and I called it Pasa de Las Serena's house of the mermaids. And so the house has always been the house of the mermaids.

Deborah Crinigan

  14:54 - 47:34

So, and it's always been pink. I've kept the house pink or Mexican rural stuff. And, when we were trying to decide, what we were going to call the restaurant, as we were coming up with the theme, we were actually at a baseball game here on the island with our friends, Ashley and Curtis, who, the bed and breakfast up the street, bill Abella. And we said, oh, we're trying to think of a name for the restaurant. And they said, you already have a name it's Rose's serene us, which was my fake name on social media and had been my fake name on social media for more than a decade. And Curtis said, you already have a brand. You already have a following.

Deborah Crinigan

  15:44 - 16:43

originated from my pink golf cart, whose name was Rosa. I need to rose up. And the house being cast to day last Serena. So around 2007, when social media started to become more mainstream, I wanted to be on social media. But as a national lawyer, I needed to be in hiding. So right. Like, you know, that people couldn't necessarily find your alias. So, I took Rosa and sereneness, which kind of means loosely red mermaid or pink mermaid. And that became my, my fake name. so over the course of more than 10 years here on the island, there were people who didn't know me as well, or didn't know me personally, that with think my name was Rosa. So people would wave and say, hi, Rosa, Rosa. And I would wave back and just let it go and say, hi, how are you And, and a lot of people said, oh, we just thought your name was Rosa.

Deborah Crinigan

  16:43 - 17:55

Cause you have red hair. Right. And, so Curtis was right and we named the restaurant, the versus Serenas because it already had that presence and media and we continued the mermaid theme. So there was already a mermaid theme and the residence. so basically all of the art in the restaurant is either, done by Mexican artists or is mermaid related. So we have a mix, we have a lot of Diego, Simone, Sylvia, Frida Kahlo. And then we have some, a lot of historic, pretty famous, French artists, English artists, a lot of sirens, a lot of siren related art. And then, also in terms of decoration, a lot of the women of the island after we opened the restaurant, this is very nice and very welcoming, lots of women who had homes, tears started coming in with mermaids, like all, you know, mermaids from TJ, max, or mermaids from wherever they happen to see them.

Deborah Crinigan

  17:55 - 18:10

So people would just, the women would just bring mermaids in. So we used a lot of those mermaids to decorate the tables in the bathroom areas. And, it was just really fun and a nice way. We kind of really felt the support from the community with that.

Dawn Fleming

  18:10 - 18:29

Nice. What a great story. I had no idea that that was the historical events. That's how we got to roses. So that's fun. And then, you were, it was, you have live music regularly here with, some amazing, our former.

Deborah Crinigan

  18:28 - 19:06

Exactly. And so my husband, the menu, he's a self-taught musician. so he had had multiple bands when he used to be here on the island and had also, worked as a cook when he lived in Acapulco. And then when he was in a Michigan, he worked as a chef under Matt bomber, who has multiple restaurants in the, in the Holland saga talk area.

Deborah Crinigan

  19:07 - 20:02

And, so he brought those skills to the table. So the first six months we were open, he was pretty much only in the kitchen. We had agreed that we wanted music every night. So I was in charge of developing the music program. Since he's a musician, he's better off not telling that aspect of it. we started a music program then after about six months, the, we have a very lucky to have two senior fellows in the kitchen, that have more than 30 years experience each. So they had mastered all his recipes and we're very, very experienced guys. So after about six months, Willy came to me and said, Hey, I miss playing music. Can I get in on the, can I get into the music program You know, what about me So, the first artist we started here with was, Ray McGee.

Deborah Crinigan

  20:02 - 21:16

He who doesn't sing anywhere else. She's the co-owner of Islam brewing company and the principal of her daughter's bilingual school. So, she started us off on the very first night she was open and, she's still here. So most of our musicians that we've had, we've had long-term since the restaurant has been open. Nice. So we, we have a variety of music, Latin jazz, Tova Cubana, sun, traditional Mexican, little red as a vocalist has a little blues and a funk that she adds in her performance. but the guitar playing and the, the, the music programs is definitely special. We have, three, three people who perform here are members of Locke Tova is Lania, which was recognized by the Congress in April of 2016, the Congress of our state, here on the island to basically recognize the cultural heritage of the music and the generations of musicians we have here on the island.

Deborah Crinigan

  21:16 - 22:12

So, Tostito Martinez Jorge San Antonio, and my husband, Willie chacan were all inducted into lot. Trover wow. so they definitely it's something special to see them perform and especially when they decide to perform together. So some dad, one of them is playing and then the other one comes along and decides to join in. And so there've been a lot of really special nights here, where the guys and the folks who, you know, after dinner is over, are here, really liked to participate. Sometimes we pass out percussion instruments and the people play along and music is definitely a big part of that part of what you do here. Five, if somebody wasn't interested in music or wanted a, a quieter experience, we have a second floor to the restaurant, which is also under air conditioning, where somebody could have an intimate, private dinner if they wished.

Dawn Fleming

  22:12 - 22:15

Sure, sure. Do you do group events too

Deborah Crinigan

  22:15 - 22:58

We do lots of group events. We do rehearsal dinners. We do weddings. We've done lots of birthday parties, because we're our small kind of boutique restaurant. if the party's for 30 or more people, usually they just take the, take the whole restaurant afterwards. We won't take additional clients. And especially since the pandemic, people are more concerned about who they're around. So normally they'll rent the entire, the entire place and then we'll work with, them depending on, you know, what type of event they want. Is it romantic Is it the fan Is it, does it have a theme That kind of thing Sure. We'll be back in a moment.

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  23:00 - 23:51

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  23:56 - 24:38

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Dawn Fleming

  24:45 - 25:01

Welcome back to the overseas life redesign podcast. Thank you so much for being here and we invite you to subscribe. If you like what you hear, I'm here with Jennifer again, tell me a little bit more about the pandemic. I'm sure that probably blindsided you just like everybody else.

Deborah Crinigan

  25:01 - 25:51

Yes, it did. my husband is kind of conservative fiscally, so we had, only been in business about two years and two months we had been saving money. Thank goodness, because he's conservative and notice, I said, don't mention myself in that he's more fiscally conservative than I am. And, so the pandemic obviously caught us by surprise. We had only been in business two years and two months. So for a restaurant that is very, very, very early in the cycle of the restaurant. I believe we were the first restaurant to close here because we had had an incident or two that were kind of disconcerting with, people mentioning COVID and the waitstaff.

Deborah Crinigan

  25:51 - 26:55

And, and literally only five days later, the, the municipality closed the entire island. So, I guess we kind of knew it was coming. So, when that occurred, we, came up with the idea with two of our friends, Tommy and Alison Marandi. He is a manager over at Saki pace out and to start a charity because we knew that eventually people would not have enough money to each year. That tourism here on the island is 99% of our economy. to give just an example of that as a restaurant, you'd have to think that the taxi driver I called to drive my people, the juice person who squeezes my juice, the laundry people who, our linens, the fishermen who bring us fresh fish in the morning, the lobster men who bring us fresh lobster, the people across the street that sell us ice.

Deborah Crinigan

  26:55 - 27:50

I mean, the list just goes on and on and on, and that's how interrelated all the businesses are here. So, we knew eventually, food or food scarcity would be an issue on the island. We could foresee that. And I had also been around, during the swine flu, pandemic when, president Obama had issued, I believe I only lasted for about six weeks, but an order that, you will not supposed to fly to Mexico. And even that short, the short period of time really dramatically affected tourism here. It has, I think it was lifted in may of that year when that had occurred. but it caused the cancellations of lots of weddings and lots of events that summer and people had a difficult time. So with something so much worse as this pandemic wise, you could kind of foresee that the handwriting was on the wall.

Deborah Crinigan

  27:50 - 28:59

So, we got together with Tommy and Allison and, we decided we needed somebody who was very good with the accounting and who, you know, was good at working with charities. so we talked to our friends, Robin, Julie goth, and Rob is the CFO for the little yellow school house. and a few other charities actually. So he's a great CFO and really kind of understands the ins and outs of the financial aspects. So they were onboard. So the three couples got together and, based on our people's generosity and our reputations, we were able to raise a lot of money very quickly. And then, then the challenge became, how do you use the funds the best as things started to get worse March into April here. And then I'd say may was by far the worst month here on the island, for food scarcity. So, as a restaurant owner and somebody who's been around, it was a very difficult time because people would come here directly to ask me for help.

Deborah Crinigan

  29:02 - 30:01

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was tough. but the charity did, we did, they did a Chad Rawi card. So people, we were under dry law, people could take the cards, they were 500 paces a piece and go buy food for their family. We did the pantry bags. I mean, did that in coordination with all the other charities on the island pantry bags The idea is that it would be enough food in there for a family of four to cook for a week. And then the final thing was because we owned a restaurant. We weren't sure how it would work out, but we wanted to try to do a food kitchen because that would, reach the most people at the most effective price point. we weren't allowed to have people on the streets here on the island. So, we had to think of a way for distribution and other things, that didn't run a foul of the local ordinances at the time.

Deborah Crinigan

  30:01 - 31:02

So we couldn't have people lining up for food. So what we did was we talked to lots of friends and lots of other small business owners here in the island that were willing to act as distribution teams for food. So, and they, all their businesses were in different neighborhoods. For example, is the driver Robbie and his lashes was in local area. There was, another couple that handled Guadalupana. There was, is a brewing company that's I don't even know which Colonia there's so many colonias here on the island. That's in another area, the island time fish or school house was a little yellow school house was a literally a distribution team. The soggy pizza was a distribution team, Villa Labella assisted, with distribution of pantries. And so you just had all these different small businesses. So what we did was they would show up at the door twice a week with crates.

Deborah Crinigan

  31:02 - 31:53

They would give us the crates because we had, did not have all the staff here, because you weren't supposed to at the time. and we would fill the crates with all the food and then the crates would go out and that distribution team would go out to their own neighborhood where they would really know, cause there's a lot of, property behind property in neighborhoods here that you can't really see from the street. So who wouldn't know their own neighborhoods better than the small businesses that operate in those neighborhoods. So we did that for the whole month. towards the end of the month, we could only produce about 500 units because we're a very small restaurant. So we kind of put out the word for help. And, penny Deming who owned the joint, was not on the island at the time, but her, she was paying her staff and her staff was here.

Deborah Crinigan

  31:54 - 32:47

So she basically turned her manager over to me and we helped them. I gave them instructions what to do and how to do it. I gave them the cash to do it. So their kitchen started producing another 250 units. So they, on the day of distribution, they would bring their food here to join with the food we were producing. And then it would go out to the team. So that really enabled us to reach like an additional 250 families where we wouldn't have been able to do it. we had help, I believe, Maria DeNucci helped once, before she left the island and we had help from Asia Korea, towards the very end there, because the need was greater than the supply. So by the end, we were doing about a thousand units. Wow. Each time we did it. And then, in June, the island reopened and things started to get better slowly.

Deborah Crinigan

  32:47 - 33:49

so we closed the food kitchen aspect of it, but continued our work with the, the food cards and also with the pantries. but as people went back to work here and there was definitely less need, even if they were only grabbing a couple of days of work, she was what happened in the beginning. And there wasn't a lot of tips, at least people were working again. So, we found that things really wound down by October. And, we had only a small balance left, which we gave to the charity keys for life so they could continue their work. And, it was, we pretty much wrapped things up. So it was a limited purpose charity. one of the things that came out of that though, was the realization that I probably in my prior life as a lawyer, would not have actually given a lot of thought to the fact that there were people that were so impacted by the pandemic that they couldn't eat.

Deborah Crinigan

  33:49 - 34:09

So I definitely, saw things with different eyes living here on the island than I would have if I had still been living in Philadelphia, not that Philadelphia wouldn't have under had their own food scarcity promise, but, I, myself was definitely changed and was a different person from living here full time, right back there.

Dawn Fleming

  34:09 - 34:11

You probably just wouldn't have had the exposure and

Deborah Crinigan

  34:11 - 34:46

My husband, he dedicated his work and all his effort, which was extensive. Cause it was very difficult to shop and do other things during the shutdown, to his mom who he's one of nine, he said his mother always managed to keep food on the table and feed all of her kids, all of the kids' friends and anyone in his neighborhood who was in need. And she did it day after day after day. So he dedicated his work to his mom and all the Mexican moms out there who somehow always don't know how to do a lot with a little, right.

Deborah Crinigan

  34:48 - 35:45

So, so we really feel that the island kind of picked back up by October, 2020, and although there've been different ups and downs, and certainly there were problems in January, February of 2021 after the United States, decided that you would need a testing to get back into the United States. we've definitely overall seen rebound on the island and, may June and July of 2021. There was definitely a pent up demand. We experience a lot as well business. then the island had experienced in may, June and July of 2019. So we didn't, we didn't have a low season at the summer start back on tax. So we're actually in the beginning of our fourth year of the restaurant now. but sometimes we just feel like it's our third year. Cause we feel like we missed our, or last year, third year we were actually totally closed about five to six months of the 2020.

Deborah Crinigan

  35:45 - 35:60

So because we tried to reopen in the summer, but there wasn't enough people. So we're open six weeks with part of the staff and then we closed again. And then we tried to reopen again in October and then we kind of stuck it out and stayed open. Yeah.

Dawn Fleming

  35:60 - 36:18

The last guest checked out in like March 20th and we didn't have anybody until October, the first week of October and our Villa. It was a solid six months with nothing. There were reservations that were we'll wait and see. And then of course it became evident that now. Right.

Deborah Crinigan

  36:18 - 36:33

And knowing a lot of people that are involved in rental management here, I mean, we knew that the, there were no people renting the houses, which is another clear signal that we're not going to have people in the restaurant. So, but people aren't staying here, they're not going to be going out to dinner.

Dawn Fleming

  36:33 - 36:42

Okay. Well, you shared with me in the beginning, but you did make the commitment, and had the resources to continue paying your staff even when you were closed because

Deborah Crinigan

  36:42 - 37:41

we had saved our money. So unfortunately, I mean, fortunately for them, when, when they started to go back to work, one of the interesting things in just talking with all the other small business owners was that, when the people went back to work and tourists started to come back, even if it was small amounts of tourists they were doing okay. but that does not mean the owners of the businesses were okay. That means the businesses were barely in the red or just breaking even. So the owners for the owners to recover, it's taken a much longer time than it does for the people because they live kind of day to day, but the owners weren't making any money for a long extended period of time, which, you know, we like to support all the other charities on the island, but, you know, it, the owners are still not recovered.

Deborah Crinigan

  37:41 - 38:04

It'll be a long time, but it was only because of our savings that we were able to, continue to pay our people, to distribute that, to give them additional work. When we had additional work for them to bring some of them back full time, to maintain their benefits during the period of time was actually more important in case people got sick.

Dawb Fleming

  38:04 - 38:11

And that is unusual, right A lot of businesses were not able to do that during the some work.

Deborah Crinigan

  38:11 - 38:34

we're not able to do that. And some, it's a philosophy thing. We're a hybrid business. We're half American, half Mexican owned. but there were other businesses that have been around the island for a very long time that didn't pay their people at all. I mean, the people, not, it was mandated under federal law that you were supposed to pay a minimum of one month severance.

Deborah Crinigan

  38:34 - 38:57

So the federal government put that burden on small business owners, which is kind of crazy because not everybody could afford that, but that was what federal law said. But there were businesses that were well established for a long time, that did not pay their people. And everybody knows who they are. Sure. Well, on a small island like this, everybody gets around,

Dawn Fleming

  38:56 - 39:05

what did your stuff react Were they surprised that you were willing to do that Or, we didn't really discuss that with them.

Deborah Crinigan

  39:05 - 39:29

We just help them. I mean, it was kind of a top down decision, which is, this is what we have for you, you know, but were they, were they surprised that they were, they were lucky because they, everybody knew other people that had no, we're not gonna, we're not getting any money at all. I mean, they basically wages here are lower the same way.

Deborah Crinigan

  39:30 - 39:55

in the restaurant industry, the wage itself is low. The tips are high, so that's no different between American and Mexican culture. but if, at least you're getting paid every day, at least that's aids and money towards, towards some bills, you know, or trying to get by.

Dawn Fleming

  39:54 - 40:00

So it has that impacted the relationship with your employees. Do you, do you send, so

Deborah Crinigan

  40:00 - 40:39

a lot of them are very young, so they're very okay. I mean, I think the older wiser ones understand that they have a level, a level of stability working with roses, arenas that they would not necessarily have somewhere else, but young people or young people. So you get people in their twenties and they're just cool. Right. They've forgotten about the pandemic, right Yeah. So, well, it sounds like things are really, turned around and yes, we definitely see a turnaround.

Deborah Crinigan

  40:39 - 41:38

Everybody's trying to really look forward to a, a great new season here. We kind of all consider the end of the season, September and the beginning of the new season to be October. So right. We're actually right now at the close of the season where a lot of businesses are closed for vacation maintenance renovations. Now's the time to do it during hurricane season while tourism is that a low point. And then when we reopened, it's the start of the new season and everybody works very hard until the high season is over. Right. So, before we wrap up here, I just, when I got to ask you, so this life that you have created is obviously very different from what you had in Philadelphia. How, how do you feel about that transition I mean, is people do ask, because I was a, with a national practice, it, you know, do I miss it

Deborah Crinigan

  41:38 - 42:37

Do I miss being a lawyer, having, contemplated whether I was really happy and that being a factor in, having lost my dad early in life, and then having the pandemic on top of it, I think the pandemic caused a lot of people to recognize that life is finite and it's not a promise. Nobody gets a promise how long I'm going to be here. I already recognize that from having lost my dad when he was only 53, I mean, I don't have any regrets at all. There's been, life lessons. I'm definitely more patient woman than I was before because here to get things done and you can't expect them to be done in the same way they are in the United States. with that said, you still have some days you're very frustrated and like, oh, I'm tired of the way things are done here, but you're not going to change everything here.

Deborah Crinigan

  42:37 - 43:30

So, some people have the ability to adapt. I'm definitely one of them I've been able to adapt and learn a new business and, and how to apply my marketing and accounting and other, other types of skills, organizational skills. I have to organizing a new business and handling the business side of, of everything. would I go back to being a lawyer now No, not really. Like one minute of, of one second of one day. I, I, it was a part of my life and when I closed that chapter, I closed it once a lawyer, always a lawyer, but, one of the conversational things in the restaurant, obviously I meet lots of people from all over. And a lot of them say like, oh, how did you land here Where did you come from this You know, you know, I'm a recovering lawyer.

Deborah Crinigan

  43:30 - 44:32

And I used to have a national practice. And I always say, no, I have a cute artsy husband and two rescue puppies. And I make coconut cheesecake for which people usually find amusing music. And sometimes even I'm trying to compute a statement. That's how my life turned out, but I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change it. I mean, one of the things you learn, this money's not everything, right So you feel a sense of joy here. Absolutely. And a big sense of community. Not that I wasn't a part of the Philadelphia community. I loved Philadelphia, but here it's, it's a small island with 20,000 plus residents. And, you just really get to know people a lot better, which is why the island is able to sustain itself in a different way. during times of crisis, whether that be hurricanes or fires or pandemics, then other larger areas of, of Mexico where they may have communities, but it's not that rural sense of togetherness that you here.

Deborah Crinigan

  44:32 - 44:45

And the island is also very blessed because there's a lot of foreigners who are super fond of Islam, a Harrison, the people of Israel, my area. So in general, see their generosity. Absolutely. Yeah. Wonderful.

Dawn Fleming

  44:44 - 44:52

Well, is there anything I didn't ask you that you want to share before we wrap up Not really.

Deborah Crinigan

  44:51 - 45:36

Just if you're thinking about making a change, sometimes you have to not be afraid and jump right in. It's just like anything else. You make a plan, you implement a plan, even if it takes a while. The implementation of me moving from Philadelphia to here full time, took over a year and then it was another year after that, before I sold my property there. So, it took quite a while. And if you are going to be involved in a new business that is Mexican related, as opposed to being an international or an online business, you know, you have to go through those processes, making a company, for us, we had to buy our liquor license.

Deborah Crinigan

  45:36 - 46:34

I wanted to be positive about my use and occupancy because this had been a residential property initially, that in fact part of it could become a restaurant. And so those things all took long periods of time and similarly, because it took a while to, properly, leave my law practice behind and to separate from that, because I had a lot of cases that had gone on for a long time. So, that takes months and months and complications to try to wrap those thoughts possibly for those clients. So, yeah, that's it. You have to start somewhere. So if you have the idea, you know, start, and if the plan doesn't seem like it's going to work or you can't figure out how to implement the plan, then make a plan B, start with another plan, just like getting anything else accomplished. Right.

Dawn Fleming

  46:33 - 46:50

Great words of wisdom. I'm glad to share that. Awesome. Well, I will definitely put in the show notes, a link to your Facebook page, or if you have a website or whatever, so folks can get in touch with you and, and come and experience this amazing restaurant you've created.

Deborah Crinigan

  46:50 - 46:51

All right, thanks so much dawn.

Commercial

  46:54 - 47:28

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