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@Work: St. John Links

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Jan. 12, 2007 — When Jean Vance got tired of the physical labor involved in bar tending at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant in Coral Bay, she parlayed her part-time work at St. John Links into a full-time career.
"It's grown into a pretty big business," Vance says.
Vance, 54, joined Andy Gordon and his wife Dorie in developing the St. John Links website, which includes links to more than 100 vacation villas, day sails, retail stores and myriad other services provided by St. John businesses.
The villa rental listings are free, she says, but if a vacationer books through St. John Links the company gets a 10-percent commission.
Vance moved from Dallas to St. John in 1979 with her son, Matthew, who was then seven.
"I came with my son, two bags and 400 bucks," she says.
Like many long-time residents who arrived back in those long-ago days, Vance worked at a variety of jobs in the early years. Her first job was at the Lobster Hut restaurant, but then she moved on to St. John Car Rental and then to the Back Yard Bar and Restaurant. Vance moved back to the mainland when her son was 13, but after a year returned to the island she called home.
Jobs at various restaurants in the Coral Bay area came before she signed on at Skinny Legs when it opened it in the 1980s.
Along the way, Vance picked up the nickname most St. John residents call her, "Mean Jean." She can't really remember the particulars of how she got the name, but thinks it dates from her early days on St. John when people thought she was too nice.
"It's like calling a big person 'Tiny,'" she says.
Or, she says, it might be a result of those long-ago days when she went out dancing at Fred's and people called her Mean Jean the Dancing Machine.
Vance says she enjoys working out of her house and the additional free time that comes with being self-employed.
"Now I find I have time to do stuff on my house," she says. Now has time for snorkeling and swimming and has taken up kayaking.
The El Paso, Texas, native says she learned a lot about computers from her son, who is now 33 and working in the computer field in Texas. With no formal computer training, she says, she also learned by watching Gordon work on websites.
Gordon, 53, also arrived on St. John in 1979 after a cousin told him about the place. The Bronx, New York, native says he had been living in a Bedouin hut in what was then Israeli territory when he decided to make the move to St. John.
He spent years at various jobs — singing in bars, working construction, selling decorative fossils and minerals and renting videos at Kaleidoscope until the original store burned down. When his health began to slide downward in 1998 and he could no longer do physical labor, Gordon got involved with developing websites.
Gordon proudly notes that he met his wife, Dorie, through the singles website e-harmony.com. They continue to work on St. John Links.
Visit St. John Links online or call 693-5619.
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