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@Work: Isle of View

July 4, 2006 – Michael Beason and Barbara Footer recently expanded their St. John empire to open two video rental stores – Isle of View in Cruz Bay and Isle of View Too in Coral Bay.
Yes, video stores. Folks with long St. John memories will recall that Beason and Footer opened the island's first video store, Kaleidoscope. After a 1997 fire destroyed their store, as well as Grumpy's Restaurant, they moved to the building where Caravan Auto now sits. When that building was sold, Beason said they gave up and sold the business in 1999.
Beason said that, in retrospect, that wasn't such a good move, so they decided to get back into the video rental business.
"We decided we might as well do what we had so much fun doing," he said.
Isle of View is located next to Caravan Auto in the Pine Peace area of Cruz Bay. In Coral Bay, Isle of View Too is located at Cocoloba shopping center.
Hours are 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
The inventory doesn't stop at video rentals, however. Beason, a musician who plays regularly with the popular St. John group, the Iguanas, has a supply of guitar strings and other musicians' accessories not available elsewhere on St. John.
"We're trying to supply people with things they can't get on St. John," Beason said.
In addition to DVDs, the stores stock DVD players; high-quality tobacco, including an organically-grown brand called American Spirit; and candles and wind chimes made by a company that donates a portion of its proceeds to help alleviate world hunger.
Additionally, Beason said he'll soon be selling eight different flavors of Dean's Beans fair trade organic coffee and beef jerky.
He's already selling Ben and Jerry's ice cream at the Cruz Bay Store at two pints for $10.
Beason, 53, and Footer, 60, are the Ben and Jerry's distributor for St. John. They're also the island distributor for other products, including Dean's Beans.
The tale of how they became the Ben and Jerry's distributor has its roots in the couple's need to earn a living.
The two met in Gainesville, Fla., when a mutual friend introduced them 28 years ago. Footer, a Boston native, had lived on St. John for three years when she went to Gainesville for a visit. Beason, who was driving a cab in Gainesville, was smitten with Footer, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Beason moved to St. John in 1978. Laughing, he said the two were faced with the ongoing St. John housing crisis that made it hard to find an apartment. He said Footer was working as a bookkeeper for architect Dick Boebel, who had an office on the top floor of the Boulon Center. So, he built them an apartment on the same floor.
"We had an apartment where the dentist's waiting room is now. The only thing left of our apartment is the bathroom," he said,
After a few years there, they built a house.
Like many people who moved from the mainland decades ago, Beason did what he could to get by. He started playing music on St. John and St. Thomas, added a job at a car rental agency and out of a suitcase sold crystal jewelry made by Footer's cousin.
Looking for a bargain lunch, he often ate lunch at the long-closed Sinbad's restaurant on Back Street in St. Thomas, where he got a taste of the restaurant's fresh, homemade yogurt. He said the commercial brands he bought weren't nearly up to that standard and often weren't fresh.
He and Footer started making their own Sunshine brand yogurt, soon selling it to friends and eventually to stores. "It was quite good," he said.
They branched out into frozen yogurt, and when their biggest customer, Ruth Ann Adams, decided to give up her ice cream cart to go back to school, Beason and Footer became itinerant ice cream, frozen yogurt and frozen fruit bar sellers.
When St. Thomas distributor Howard Fox came calling with a banana frozen fruit bar, Beason found the higher quality product he wanted to sell.
"That was my first wholesale product that was not homemade," he recalled.
The Ben and Jerry's franchise soon followed, which convinced Beason and Footer they needed a retail outlet. The couple and Bonny Corbeil opened Luscious Licks next to Lemon Tree Mall in the mid-1980s. Although the focus was on ice cream and desserts, the trio also dished up vegetarian meals. After one harrowing day in which Beason got slammed with customers just after he committed to prepare a big take out order, he and Footer sold out to Corbeil.
"I was not temperamentally suited to be a short-order cook," he said.
As St. John grew and the demand for premium ice cream increased, Beason and Footer's wholesale business kept pace. Although Footer has segued into an online business, the two continue to keep St. John supplied with delicious treats — and now videos.
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