RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After 26 years in the same location near Virginia Commonwealth University, Jamaica House was ready for a new home. Now the popular local restaurant has opened its doors just four blocks away in Richmond’s Arts District.
After moving to Richmond from Brooklyn in the mid-1980s, Carena Ives, the Jamaican-born owner, said that delicious food was always the inspiration behind opening up a restaurant. With that in mind, she opened Jamaica House in July 1994 at 1215 W. Broad Street.
“I was hungry! I wanted my home cooking,” Ives said. “I wanted my mother’s home cooking. And that kind of led me down this path and here we are.”
Ives said that she didn’t have much of a choice to move her business and says the VCU Real Estate Foundation abruptly terminated their contract.
“It forced us to find a new location,” Ives said.
But Ives does admit that it was well past time for an upgrade to the restaurant anyway.
“Being in that location for so many years, it was important for us and the customers that we serve to stay within the community,” Ives said. “Our space at 1215 was a little run down, I’ll admit that. It was a little run down. For many years, we didn’t do much other than make delicious food. I think that with this new space, we are matching our passion of the food with our passion for this new space.”
After a year of stress and economic crisis from COVID-19, she said that a lot went through her mind before the move.
“What was going to happen? What was gonna happen to the customers we were trying to serve? What was gonna happen to ourselves as businessowners and employees? If we are going to stay healthy enough to continue to work,” Ives said.
Now that they are settled, her eyes are only looking toward what kind of fresh new beginning that the future has to offer.
But the restaurant is currently still doing takeout only while they are establishing themselves in the new building.
“It’s relaxing, and fun and beautiful and not being able to share that with our customers is very sad,” Ives said. “In time, everyone can come in and I can sit with people, we can share a meal, we can tell stories.”