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Charlotte Amalie
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@Work: Fish N Things

Jan. 15, 2007 — Isabel Cruz has always wanted to be her own boss, so her husband, Almando, gave her the ultimate gift: a restaurant.
The restaurant, Fish N Things, reopened two weeks ago under new ownership and offering more than just fish.
"It was up for sale and I decided to get it for her," Almando Cruz says. The restaurant now offers mostly Latin and native cuisine.
Lobster is huge on the menu. There is lobster in butter sauce, lobster soup and even lobster pate. Menu choices also include crab and rice, stewed pork chops, fish, beef steak, salt fish and stew meat. All come with a choice of dumplings, fungi, seasoned or white rice and beans. Rounding out the menu offerings are pumpkin fritters and pates — saltfish, beef, lobster and conch.
Isabel Cruz says she never imagined opening up her own business.
"I was a jewelry salesperson most of my life," she says while getting a basket of condiments and utensils ready for customers.
Going into the restaurant business has meant exchanging neatly pressed clothes, a coiffed hairdo and makeup for more comfortable clothing like a jogging suit and a hairnet.
"It's different — everything is different," she says, smiling. "But I like it."
Her husband, a former Corrections Bureau officer who had been doing small construction jobs, says the couple didn't really have a choice.
"It was hard making ends meet on what we earned," he explains, "and when I got this opportunity, I took it."
Almando Cruz says he took out a loan to help finance the opening of the restaurant, and unlike many businesses that go belly-up after a few years, he's hoping that Fish N Things is here for the long haul.
"This is just our second week and business is starting to catch up because we're advertising," he says. "As people get used to the fact that we're here, we figure they'll come."
In the last year, three restaurants — the first Fish N Things, Soul Vegetarian and Loco Gecko — have closed in the Sunny Isle area.
The Cruces says they recognize that they're taking a risk, but there was no other way to go about it.
"We live in a free-enterprise society and it's a risk — you must invest money to make money," he says. "You do what you have to do to get that piece of the American pie, and we're hoping that all goes well for us."
The Cruces say they put in 12-hour work shifts to ensure that all runs smoothly. They also have the help of family members and three employees.
"We want to make it work and so if it means working a lot of hours, so be it," Almando says with a smile. "The good thing is that when you're self-employed, you can set your own hours."
Orders at Fish N Things are mostly takeout, but customers who prefer to eat in can do so at the circular counter that doubles as a bar and table.
The restaurant is open Monday thru Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed Sundays. For more information, call 277-6265 or 332- 3254.
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