Community spirit: Fish working to center startup around Caribbean food, culture

Jamaican-born entrepreneur aiming to open ‘Taste of Caribbean’ food market, restaurant concept in Newark

Chanice Fish knows about the grocery business. She helped her mom open two food markets in her native Jamaica two decades ago.

Fish knows about cooking authentic island recipes, too. She currently has a catering business as a side hustle.

She’s learning how to be an entrepreneur.

Fish is in the process of building out Taste of the Caribbean Food Market, a 2,500-square-foot facility in Newark that she is aiming to open in the first quarter of 2025.

When it’s complete, it will enable her to fulfill her true passion: Teaching others about the culture of the Caribbean through its rich and diverse food offerings.

The store, to be located at 17 Linden St. in Newark, will be a restaurant that serves Caribbean food — and a market that sells authentic products for those looking to cook at home. And it will come with an educational component, teaching customers about the region.

“The store will be a food experience,” she said. “It will be a fusion of education and entertainment, where customers will be able to shop and learn about the Caribbean.”

The store will feature animatronic displays that offer that education in an entertaining way, Fish said. And the content will consistently change. Fish said each month will be devoted to a different island nation — with months connected to the independence anniversary of the nation as much as possible.

“We want it to be a complete cultural experience, a community hub, not just a place for food,” she said.

Fish is taking entrepreneurial courses at New Jersey Institute of Technology this semester, while pursuing a master’s degree at Montclair State University.

Her business acumen, however, has long been apparent.

Fish was just a teenager when she and her mom opened their first store in Jamaica, doing so after graduating high school early — she was just 16.

After coming to the U.S. for college, she established herself as an environmental data specialist and project manager for TRC Cos. — her day job.

And, since she introduced her vision for the food market, she is talking to Rutgers University – Newark to be part of the meal plan, and potentially, NJIT, which she is working with on the animatronic component.

This entrepreneurial spirit and excellence certainly caught the eye of the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which recently selected Taste of the Caribbean as one of its five finalists for its annual business pitch competition.

WCEC Executive Director Rana Shanawani said Fish has all the tools necessary to succeed.

“Chanice’s restaurant venture defies industry norms with a number of strengths,” she said. “It is strategically located in Newark and caters to the city’s vibrant Caribbean diaspora. It benefits from Chanice’s unique Caribbean background for authenticity and community insight. And it has a prime college campus location and plans for inclusion in the college meal plan, which mitigate typical restaurant failure rates.

“This business is positioned for sustained success in a competitive market.”

Fish is eager to pursue the journey — eager to pursue the lessons learned through her career and educational experiences moving forward.

“My favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is enjoying the freedom that comes with it,” she said. “It fulfills me to know that I’m able to impact my community in a positive way by showing up as my authentic self.

“Being able to share my culture and experience in a way that uplifts my community truly makes me happy.”