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On Island Profile: Bonny Corbeil

July 28, 2005 – The latest chapter in Bonny Corbeil's life has her as the cleaning manager for Vacation Vistas, a St. John vacation villa management company.
However, Corbeil, 53, is best known on St. John for her ownership of Luscious Licks, a now-closed vegetarian restaurant located across from the Creek. Suffering a severe case of burnout after 14 years keeping the business afloat, she sold out in 1999. The restaurant is now Margarita Phil's.
"I did the job of three people and could only do it so long. How I survived for 14 years, I don't know. Those years are a blur," she said.
Corbeil said that during her reign at Luscious Licks, St. John's restaurant climate began to change. When she and Barbara Footer opened Luscious Licks as an ice cream and dessert shop in a miniscule space near the Lemon Tree Mall, small operations with lower-priced food could survive.
Now, she said only those places selling drinks and dinners at $35 for the entrée can make a profit.
"St. John is gearing to the rich," she said.
She said rents and utility bills have skyrocketed, forcing small restaurants like Luscious Licks out of business.
With a strong social conscience, she conjured up what she called a local's platter in the dark days after 1995's Hurricane Marilyn. The price was low and the selection eclectic but always tasty.
"Most locals hardly had any money," she said, talking about the grim economic times that followed Hurricane Marilyn.
Corbeil arrived on St. John from her native Canada in 1983 to housesit for the late Jean Knight. She said she and Knight met when Knight attended one of her frequent parties. Knight's nephew was married to Corbeil's sister.
She said she was ready for a sabbatical from her job as a resources department head at social services agency and jumped at the chance to move to scenic St. John.
"The town was small and everybody knew everybody," she said.
Once on St. John, she started doing volunteer work with the children at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.
She "came and went a few times" between Canada and St. John, but Corbeil eventually got her green card. This allowed her to remain on St. John. Several years ago, she became a U.S. citizen.
She was born in North Bay, Ontario, where the temperature can reach 30 degrees below zero. Her mother raised Corbeil and her three siblings alone. Times were tough, an aspect of her past that Corbeil said helped make her who she is today.
Corbeil left North Bay for George Brown College in Toronto to get a degree in childcare work. After graduation, she worked in a treatment center for emotionally disturbed children.
"I worked with kids nobody else could connect with," she said.
She continues her work with children by holding what she called kindness classes with St. John children. She uses her pet dogs, Princess and China, to help children learn how to be nice to animals. She hopes that skill will translate into being kind to others.
As for those dogs, who were once orphans in need of a home, they and her four cats make up her family.
"They're my children," she said.
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