Love is in the air in the Mohawk Valley, and so is the smell of great food.
Carlloyd Gowe, owner of Island Breeze Bar & Grill in Utica, cooks his signature jerk chicken on the outdoor grill year-round, even when the snow is up to his knees. His wife Sandra Gowe, who co-owns the business, goes home to their native Jamaica every few months to purchase authentic ingredients for the restaurant.
“It’s not like we don’t have herbs here [in Utica], but if you really want that Jamaican flavor, that Jamaican taste, you bring those herbs and that vibe right here,” Carlloyd said.
Meanwhile, Barry Cavanaugh, who co-owns Raindrops on Roses Bed & Breakfast in Herkimer with his wife Denise Cavanaugh, prepares breakfast himself for guests. He said that he has a secret method for cooking bacon that he learned from his father, and that guests are always clamoring for more.
Denise calls it “Barry’s world-famous bacon.”
“The breakfasts are outstanding,” Denise said. “He’s not going to say that, so I will. I mean, he has just developed so much since we’ve opened. We’ve had return guests, and they say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to have your breakfasts again.’ It’s really, really amazing.”
Partners in business and in love
The Gowes will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this month, while the Cavanaughs will be married 35 years this May. While some people might balk at the idea of working and running a business with their significant other, both couples find that the experience enhances their relationship.
That doesn’t mean the situation is always perfect. Sandra said that she and Carlloyd do sometimes butt heads over the business.
“But before the day ends…” Carlloyd said.
Sandra finished his sentence for him: “Everything is good.”
The Cavanaughs take different roles at the bed and breakfast that play to each of their strengths. Barry is retired, and does all of the cooking and cleaning. Denise is the executive director of the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce, and she handles the bookkeeping and organizational end of the business.
Both welcome and connect with guests, striving to create an environment of warm hospitality.
“People think it’s the perfect fit, and it is, because we do really both provide the services that we’re best at,” Denise said. “And we know each other pretty well, so we’re pretty good at making decisions together. And I think we’ve always supported each other in our different capacities.”
The Gowes opened Island Breeze Bar & Grill in 2006 on Oneida Street, and opened their current Mandeville Street location in 2018. Carlloyd, the chef, has loved cooking since he was about six, watching his mother make home-cooked meals and copying what she did.
Sandra does a bit of everything else at the restaurant, from procuring supplies to serving. Sometimes, if Carlloyd gets overwhelmed in the kitchen, she hops in to help.
Plenty to celebrate
February is a month full of celebration for the Gowes: in addition to Valentine’s Day, there’s the anniversary of opening the Mandeville Street location, their oldest son’s birthday, Sandra’s birthday, and their wedding anniversary.
A week before Valentine’s Day, the Gowes didn’t have any specific plans, but didn’t feel like they needed to.
“Every day is Valentine’s Day for us,” Sandra said. “We don’t need any special day to be Valentine’s Day.”
The Cavanaughs also find it important to always celebrate special occasions like anniversaries and Valentine’s Day, whether it’s just going out to dinner or bringing each other small but meaningful gifts.
Denise said that while she never thought of her and her husband as a particularly romantic couple, she’s surprised when she speaks to colleagues and friends and discovers that many don’t do anything for those occasions.
“I guess I’m a real occasion person, but I think those are the little things that really are important,” Denise said. “And I get sad when I hear people who maybe have kids or are younger or something say, ‘Oh, we never have done anything for our anniversary.’ And I’m like, what? Wait a minute. You’ve got to celebrate something, and really take some time for each other.”
The Cavanaughs opened Raindrops and Roses in November 2021. Prior to opening their own, they were bed and breakfast aficionados, often staying at such establishments for anniversaries or little romantic getaways.
“Right from the start, we had this attraction, and then we both love to travel,” Barry said. “When we got married, we chose to drive around staying at bed and breakfasts across Ireland, and that was a really great, romantic experience we shared together.”
Raindrops and Roses has a wine tasting room featuring selections from local wineries, Prospect Falls Winery and Rustic Ridge Winery. They rent out two rooms bedecked in a rose motif, the charming Victorian Rose room and the larger, more luxurious Tiffany Rose room. Both rooms have en suite bathrooms and gas fireplaces, and the Tiffany Rose room includes a Jacuzzi bathtub.
A week before Valentine’s Day, the Cavanaughs didn’t have firm plans for the holiday either, but they knew they would mark the occasion, perhaps by spending a night curled up by the fire in the Tiffany Rose room.
Sparks fly, love endures
The Gowes said that they were instantly attracted to one another when they met in Jamaica over 35 years ago. Sandra immediately noticed Carlloyd’s looks and his brilliant smile.
“I said to my friend, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get him. He’s mine. That’s my husband right there,’” Sandra said. “I claimed him right there and then.”
Carlloyd echoes Sandra’s memory of their first meeting.
“It was everything, her looks, her personality, everything,” he said. “I was just watching her like, ‘Oh my God, I really like this girl, and I don’t want nobody else.’ We have our ups and downs, but we still go through everything together.”
The Gowes plan to bring out special red tablecloths and hand out roses to customers for the holiday. The interior of Island Breeze is painted in vivid shades of sunshine yellow and ocean-blue teal. Flags from different nations hang from the ceiling, reflecting the Gowes’ desire to welcome anyone and everyone.
“This is why we do this, for our community,” Carlloyd said. “Island Breeze is for the community. And not just this community – all around. I want to spread that good love.”
The Cavanaughs are offering a Valentine’s Day special that includes a complimentary bottle of champagne and fresh-baked cookies courtesy of Barry, although they noted that January and February tend to be the slowest times of year for bookings.
The Cavanaughs love chatting with guests from far and wide and learning their stories.
The couple feels they are a good match and that their love is so lasting because their personalities complement one another and they can depend on one another for support. When they first met, they were drawn to one another’s sense of humor, and felt that they just clicked right away.
“We can recite so many stories of when I’m flipping out over something and then he says something ridiculous and we both just end up laughing,” Denise said. “It’s very important. I admire Barry’s calmness, his ability to be content, which I do not have. I think we really love about each other the traits that we don’t have. I admire his acumen with sports. He’s kind and he’s calm, and he’s a good person.”
While Denise credits Barry for his outstanding cooking and his steady temperament, Barry credits Denise with making their dream of owning a bed and breakfast a reality.
“I love her personality, her looks, her knowledge, her drive,” Barry said. “If I was alone, I wouldn’t be sitting in a bed and breakfast right now. Her ability to get things done, and to get it done right, is amazing.”
Even though the Gowes spend all day together at the restaurant, they make a point of curling up together and watching a movie or TV every night. That quality time is essential, they said.
“We’re still head over heels after all these years,” Carlloyd said.
First appeared on www.uticaod.com