‘I reached rock bottom living in the US’
After troubled start J’can man finds success in real estate, local eatery
Among the myriad of Jamaican restaurants populating the Bronx is one that could be considered a gem hidden in plain sight.
A stroll along White Plains Road in the Bronx reveals no shortage of restaurants and bars offering the full gamut of Jamaican dishes from jerked chicken, curried goat, curried chicken to oxtail, stewed peas and rice, among other dishes.
But Blind Spot offers something different, mouthwatering Jamaican-style seafood dishes and a hangout spot for mature patrons.
Blind Spot, formerly Barry’s, is located at 707 East 235 Street, between White Plains Road and Byron Avenue, in the Bronx, is easy to access although not a part of the crowded White Plains Road strip.
The location has been a bar and restaurant for some 31 years and was featured on the food show, Parts Unknown, hosted by Anthony Bourdain on CNN. The show featured the establishment’s iconic “pigtail soup”.
Recently the business was purchased by Clifford Sutherland who re-named it Blind Spot and expanded the physical space to accommodate additional customers.
Sutherland known to everyone as Suddie, was born in Hanover, Jamaica, and like his business, has a very colourful past.
He attended Pell River Primary School in Hanover and later Green Island Secondary School. From there he went on to Kingston Technical High School, then the University of Technology (formerly CAST) and the Vocation Training Development Institute.
He began his working life with the Public Works Department in Jamaica where he spent five years and later spent eight years teaching at St. Catherine High School. He also taught for five years at the Jonathan Grant High School.
Sutherland left the teaching profession to work as an aircraft mechanic at Air Jamaica where he would spend 10 years. He went back to teaching at St. Catherine High School, but would spend just one year in the classroom before starting his own ventures – a livestock farm and a sports bar known as Good Friends.
After his businesses suffered a series of break-ins, he sold them and decided to join his wife in the United States in 2011.
But life did not go smoothly for him on his arrival in the United States. The couple separated and he found himself almost homeless.
Sutherland began working with a company in Manhattan building storage units, but that job did not last long. He then decided to become a real estate agent, obtaining the necessary licence. But things barely improved for him initially.
TOP SALES AGENT
Today, he is a fully licensed real estate broker, and employed to the same company on White Plains Road where he began his real estate career.
Sutherland said he had seen the best of times and some bad times living in the United States.
“I reached rock bottom living in the United States. I found myself in a situation where I almost became homeless and had to depend on friends to eat,” he said.
He said that he had difficulty paying his rent and had to borrow money to pay the school fees for his children in Jamaica.
He believes his fortune turned around because of his decision to stick with the real estate business.
“In 2018 I was awarded as top sales agent with the company for which I work. And it is because of real estate that I was able to buy Barry’s when it was put up for sale,” he told The Gleaner.
Sutherland said that because of his experiences operating a bar in Jamaica it was a natural progression to re-enter the business when he had the chance.
“I love doing it and so I jumped at the chance when Barry’s became available,” he said
He knew that he wanted to create a place where mature individuals could go and be comfortable, and so he set about transforming the bar.
But he also wanted to re-activate the restaurant part of the business and reached out to Salomie Belcher, a friend and former work partner who previously operated the Healthy Eaters Café in Mount Vernon. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she had been forced to close her store front restaurant and and transform to a food delivery service, Flavour by Salomie.
“I was able to continue by prepping from home and delivering to my customers who loved the service and most of all the flavour of my seafood. So it was a smooth transition into this space at Blind Spot,” she said.
As she had worked with Clifford before and shared a great work relationship, she responded without hesitation when he offered her the opportunity to operate under his umbrella, and maintain her business identity.
The Blind Spot now offers seafood style dishes with delivery by Grub Hub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.