Oct. 17, 2005 Yes, there really was a Jolly Dog, the namesake of three Coral Bay area stores.
Alas, Apollo died in 1998, a few years after an adventurous trip from Jennifer Donnelly's native Montserrat. In 1995, she and soon-to-be husband Jeff Donnelly fled the island in the wake of Hurricane Luis and the island's erupting volcano.
"We lived just near Plymouth," Jennifer Donnelly says, talking about the island's capital now under feet of volcanic ash.
After fleeing the volcano several times to other parts of Montserrat, they finally were forced to evacuate for good. With only a couple of hours to pack up their belongings because officials knew the volcano was about to erupt again, Jeff Donnelly knocked together a crate from a table and some boards so he and Apollo could get a ride on board the Avontuer sail boat, which was about to leave for points north. Jennifer Donnelly took a Liat flight.
Jeff Donnelly, now 37, and Apollo, as well as a neighbor's dog they had rescued, made it as far as St. Maarten. He then had to send Apollo on alone to St. Thomas aboard the island freighter Karma. The couple and their dog were finally reunited just before Christmas.
The Vermont-born and Maine-raised Jeff Donnelly and his father had owned a screen-printing shop on Montserrat, where he met his wife. Jennifer Donnelly's parents are Canadians who settled on Montserrat.
Both Donnellys had worked as sales representatives across the Caribbean. They settled in Coral Bay, St. John in December 1995 because Jeff Donnelly's family had made frequent visits to the island since 1973.
"We came here in October to scope the place out. The volcano started erupting in July so we knew we needed to find a new home," Jennifer Donnelly says.
Jeff Donnelly sold his family's screen-printing equipment to St. John's Tall Ship Trading Co. and worked at the shop. Both also had jobs with the island's Big Planet stores.
"We got here and never left," Jennifer Donnelly says.
They opened the Jolly Dog Island Outpost store in 1997 at the Shipwreck Landing shopping complex. They subsequently opened the Jolly Dog Trading Co. store near Skinny Legs Restaurant and Bar and the Doghouse, also located in the Skinny Legs shopping area.
Jennifer Donnelly, 36, said that in St. John's post Hurricane Marilyn business climate, it was hard to find space. They jumped when the store at Shipwreck Landing became available. They recently moved the store into a larger space in the same shopping center.
Each store is different.
"The Shipwreck store is our beach store. Anything you need for the beach," she says.
The store has a pirate theme, with a big section for kids.
The main Skinny Legs store is more of a boutique, with high-end clothing and other items. The Doghouse sells t-shirts and souvenirs.
While they're busy with the stores, raising their daughters – five-and-a-half-year-old Sydney and nine-year-old Pace – and their dogs, Mauby and Black Pearl, they put lots of energy into community endeavors.
They created the t-shirts and other merchandise for the annual Blues Festival, help sponsor the annual 8 Tuff Miles race and helped found the Wagapalooza, an annual dog show that raises money for the Animal Care Center of St. John.
"I think it's important to give back," Jennifer Donnelly says.
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