April 25, 2005 Lime Inn restaurant owners Rich and Chris Meyer have operated a restaurant in Cruz Bay, St. John longer than all but a very small handful of people.
"I always feel fortunate we arrived when we did. Our timing was perfect," Chris said.
The couple moved to St. John from New Jersey in 1984 after several visits to Cinnamon Bay Campground. They bought what was then a bar that served mainly as the venue for owner Tom Funkhauser's band, the Cowbay Cruz Boys.
For the first few years, the new owners continued on in the Funkhauser tradition, with a roofless Lemon Tree Mall space and music went till the wee hours.
That was fine when most of the customers came in for the night from Cinnamon Bay Campground and Maho Bay Camps, but when the Virgin Grand Hotel, now the Westin Resort and Villas, went up and the vacation villa market exploded, guests wanted more.
Chris said lots of improvements have been made to the restaurant as St. John's guests grow more upscale. For starters, they put a roof on the restaurant and began to expand the menu. Today, the restaurant serves what Chris Meyer calls basic fare like fish and lobster as well as Wednesday's "All the Shrimp You Can Eat" feast.
On the sweeter side, Chris said she got the restaurant's famous hot fudge brownie recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook published in the 50s. "It was easy and simple and it stuck," she said.
And she said the recipe for the Bermuda salad came from the back of a Heinz tarragon vinegar bottle.
Despite the lack of a high-brow lineage for some of the dishes, Chris said the restaurant staff cooks everything from scratch.
Chris, now 46, said she had to work hard to convince her husband, who was her high-school sweetheart back at Shawnee High in Medford Lakes, N.J., to move to St. John.
When they arrived Rich was a budding artist with a degree from Philadelphia College of Art, and she had a background working in restaurants.
"My father made me work. It was quick and easy money," she said of her years spent waitressing and in the kitchen.
She said she had to work equally hard to get her husband involved in the Lime Inn. Initially, she cooked, worked the dining room and did all the rest it took to keep the place going. When she started renovating, however, Rich finally got involved.
"And he never left," she said.
Rich, 49, is still involved, but his wife said he also builds houses for the couple to rent in the vacation villa market.
Along the way from the hard-rocking days of the roofless bar the couple had two girls, Chelsea, 16, and Kasey, 14.
Chris said she's also seen enormous changes in the restaurant business over the years. Competition for employees is keen, with many opting to work for more upscale restaurants. She said they don't have to work as hard as they do at the fast-paced Lime Inn. "Every year we lose six to eight people," she said, noting that the restaurant has 35 people on its staff.
The food supply has also come a long way. Way back when she was first in business, the ice cream company would send their goods over on the ferry. If they forgot to call the restaurant to tell her what ferry it was on, the ice cream was left melting on the dock.
Today, three purveyors make daily deliveries from St. Thomas and there are people available to repair equipment. "And they're all very competitive," she said.
The Lime Inn is open for lunch Monday through Friday, and for dinner Monday through Saturday.
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