Jamaica Way is a small Caribbean and Jamaican food style restaurant located in Southwest Philadelphia within Penrose Plaza. Penrose Plaza is home to 20+ businesses, most of which are owned by larger corporations. Of the six restaurants at the Plaza, Jamaica Way is the only one not a part of a large fast-food chain. We recently interviewed them as part of the Paschalville Project to find out more about this community business.
Jamaica Way has been in the community for a decade. It was started in 2009 by Jane Henderson, who is the sole proprietor of the establishment. Since it opened, Ms. Henderson has been, for the most part, running the business and preparing all the food by herself. Although not a completely family-run business, some of Ms. Henderson’s family have and continue to work for the business she started. For several years, the bookkeeping was being handled by Ms. Henderson’s daughter and over the last year and a half, her son Kirk Evans has become more involved, helping his mother out as she gets older and preparing her to retire when she is ready. Kirk’s cousin is also a current employee and has been there since he was nine-years-old.
Kirk graduated with a degree in finance from Villanova and thinks of himself as “pretty computer savvy.” He’s managed stores and supermarkets before and has even run his own business for years. Since joining his mother about a year and a half ago, he has implemented some things into the business to help it become more structured and run smoothly. He has created a website as well as Facebook and Instagram pages for Jamaica Way. He also made sure the address and phone numbers were correct on Google and Bing searches.
“My mother has been in Philadelphia for a long time,” Kirk responded when asked why Southwest was chosen for Jamaica Way. This area was chosen for the business because of how close it is to the Philadelphia airport as well as the post office. Kirk also mentioned it is close to the New Jersey Bridge, which is where he lives and is deciding on opening another Jamaica Way location to this state.
When asked if Southwest is a good area for them, Kirk said, “Surprisingly, you would think it’s a lot of Jamaicans that come through, but it actually isn’t.” Being in this area of Philadelphia has allowed Jamaica Way to reach a much wider demographic, with even Asian and White people coming in to enjoy their food. However, even though its location allows them to reach a wide range of people, there are still people in the area that haven’t even heard of the restaurant
In addition to cooking and serving delicious food, Jamaica Way is also a staple in the community. For the last two years, Jamaica Way has been giving away free meals once a month on Sundays. Started by Ms. Henderson as an act of kindness, the giveaway would feed anywhere from 100 to 150 people during its run and would benefit children as well as other members of the community. (The giveaway is on hiatus until after the holiday season).
With reliable clientele that frequents the restaurant, Kirk looks toward the future of Jamaica Way. He plans to fine-tune its marketing plan by fully utilizing the restaurants’ social media pages as well as offer Uber Eats.
Jamaica Way is located at 2930 Island Avenue in Penrose Plaza. Its hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To view their menu, visit https://www.jamaicawaylimited.com/. For more info, contact Jamaica Way by calling (215) 365-5476.
The Paschalville Partnership is a collaboration of organizations spearheaded by the Free Library of Philadelphia working to transform services for the community served by Paschalville Library, located in Southwest Philadelphia. Over the next year, the partnership is working with community members to make visible the primary building blocks for sustainable community development. The partnership’s work is grounded in the principles of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), which intentionally builds on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions.