Romance wafts through the air of the Mohawk Valley, accompanied by the tantalizing aroma of exquisite cuisine.
Carlloyd Gowe, the mastermind behind Island Breeze Bar & Grill in Utica, tirelessly grills his renowned jerk chicken outdoors throughout the year, undeterred even by knee-deep snow. His partner in life and business, Sandra Gowe, periodically ventures back to their Jamaican roots to procure authentic ingredients, ensuring an unparalleled culinary experience for patrons.
“When you crave that unmistakable Jamaican essence,” Carlloyd explains, “you’ve got to infuse those herbs and that vibe right here in Utica.”
Across town in Herkimer, Barry Cavanaugh, co-proprietor of Raindrops on Roses Bed & Breakfast alongside his wife Denise, personally crafts breakfast delights for their guests. He boasts a clandestine bacon-cooking technique passed down from his father, a culinary gem that consistently leaves visitors yearning for more.
Denise affectionately dubs it “Barry’s internationally renowned bacon.”
“The breakfast experience is simply exceptional,” Denise enthused. “While he may not boast about it himself, I certainly will. His culinary prowess has flourished immensely since we first opened our doors.
We’ve welcomed back countless returning guests, all eagerly anticipating the pleasure of indulging in Barry’s breakfast creations once more. It’s truly remarkable.”
Partners in business and in love
This month, the Gowes will joyously mark their 20th wedding anniversary, while the Cavanaughs will commemorate 35 years of marriage come May. While many may hesitate at the thought of mixing work with their romantic partnership, both couples wholeheartedly attest that managing a business together only deepens their bond.
While their dynamic isn’t flawless, Sandra admitted that she and Carlloyd occasionally clash over business matters.
“But by day’s end…” Carlloyd began.
Sandra interjected, completing his thought, “Everything falls back into place.”
At the bed and breakfast, the Cavanaughs divide tasks according to their individual strengths. Barry, being retired, assumes responsibility for cooking and cleaning duties.
Meanwhile, Denise, serving as the executive director of the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce, oversees the business’s financial management and organizational aspects.
Both extend a heartfelt welcome and foster connections with guests, endeavoring to cultivate an atmosphere of genuine hospitality.
“People often perceive it as the ideal match, and rightfully so, because we each excel in the areas where our talents lie,” Denise remarked.
“Given our deep understanding of each other, we collaborate seamlessly when making decisions. Throughout our journey, we’ve consistently supported one another in our respective roles.”
In 2006, the Gowes launched Island Breeze Bar & Grill on Oneida Street before relocating to their current spot on Mandeville Street in 2018. Carlloyd, the culinary maestro, developed a passion for cooking at a tender age of six, inspired by his mother’s skillful home-cooked meals, which he eagerly emulated.
Sandra, on the other hand, wears many hats at the restaurant, handling everything from sourcing supplies to attending to patrons. Whenever Carlloyd finds himself swamped in the kitchen, Sandra readily steps in to lend a hand.
Plenty to celebrate
February marks a month brimming with festivities for the Gowes: aside from Valentine’s Day, they celebrate the anniversary of opening their Mandeville Street location, their eldest son’s birthday, Sandra’s birthday, and their wedding anniversary.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the Gowes haven’t made any concrete plans, yet they feel content without the need for elaborate arrangements.
“For us,” Sandra reflects, “every day embodies the essence of Valentine’s Day. We don’t require a designated date to celebrate our love.”
Similarly, the Cavanaughs prioritize commemorating special occasions such as anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Whether it entails a romantic dinner out or exchanging small yet meaningful tokens of affection, they find joy in honoring these moments together.
Denise expressed surprise at realizing that she and her husband aren’t perceived as particularly romantic by others. She’s taken aback when hearing from colleagues and friends that many neglect to acknowledge special occasions.
“I suppose I’m someone who values these moments,” Denise reflected. “Those seemingly small gestures hold significant importance to me. It saddens me to hear people, especially those with kids or younger couples, say they don’t celebrate their anniversaries. It’s like, wait a minute. You should cherish these milestones and carve out time for each other.”
The Cavanaughs inaugurated Raindrops and Roses in November 2021. Before venturing into their own business, they were ardent enthusiasts of bed and breakfasts, often opting for such charming accommodations for anniversaries or intimate getaways.
“Right from the beginning, there was this undeniable attraction between us, coupled with our shared love for travel,” Barry recounted. “When we tied the knot, we embarked on a journey exploring bed and breakfasts across Ireland. It was a wonderfully romantic experience we cherished together.”
At Raindrops and Roses, guests can indulge in a wine tasting experience showcasing selections from local wineries, such as Prospect Falls Winery and Rustic Ridge Winery.
The establishment offers two elegantly adorned rooms, each adorned with a rose motif: the quaint Victorian Rose room and the more spacious and opulent Tiffany Rose room. Both rooms boast en suite bathrooms and gas fireplaces, with the Tiffany Rose room boasting an additional Jacuzzi bathtub for added luxury.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the Cavanaughs hadn’t solidified their plans for the holiday, but they anticipated commemorating the occasion, perhaps by spending a cozy evening snuggled up by the fireplace in the Tiffany Rose room.
Sparks fly, love endures
The Gowes reminisced about their serendipitous encounter in Jamaica more than 35 years ago, recalling the instant attraction that sparked between them. Sandra was captivated by Carlloyd’s striking appearance and radiant smile from the moment they met.
“I turned to my friend and said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to have him. He’s the one for me. That’s my future husband right there,'” Sandra recounted. “I staked my claim on him right then and there.”
Carlloyd fondly echoes Sandra’s recollection of their initial meeting, affirming the magnetic connection that drew them together.
“It was everything about her – her looks, her personality, just everything,” he recalled. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her, thinking, ‘Wow, I really like this girl, and I don’t want anyone else.’ Despite the ups and downs, we navigate through everything together.”
For the holiday, the Gowes plan to adorn tables with special red tablecloths and distribute roses to patrons. Inside Island Breeze, vibrant hues of sunshine yellow and ocean-blue teal create an inviting atmosphere. Flags representing various nations hang from the ceiling, embodying the Gowes’ inclusive spirit and their desire to welcome individuals from all backgrounds.
“This is our way of giving back to the community,” Carlloyd emphasized. “Island Breeze is a place for everyone, not just locals but for everyone around. We aim to spread love and positivity wherever we can.”
The Cavanaughs have crafted a special Valentine’s Day offer, featuring a complimentary bottle of champagne and freshly baked cookies, thoughtfully prepared by Barry. Despite acknowledging that January and February typically yield fewer bookings, they remain committed to providing exceptional experiences for their guests.
Passionate about connecting with visitors from various corners of the globe, the Cavanaughs take delight in engaging with them and discovering their unique stories.
The couple believes their enduring love stems from their compatible personalities and unwavering support for one another. From the moment they met, they were drawn to each other’s sense of humor, instantly clicking.
“We have countless stories of me stressing out about something, only for him to say something absurd and we end up laughing,” Denise shared. “It’s crucial. I admire Barry’s calm demeanor and his ability to find contentment, which I lack. We appreciate each other’s strengths and differences. I admire his sports knowledge, kindness, and serenity.”
Denise acknowledges Barry’s culinary skills and steady nature, while Barry credits Denise with realizing their dream of owning a bed and breakfast.
“I adore her personality, appearance, intellect, and determination,” Barry expressed. “Without her, I wouldn’t be here in a bed and breakfast. Her efficiency and attention to detail are remarkable.”
Despite spending the entirety of their days together at the restaurant, the Gowes prioritize winding down by curling up and enjoying a movie or TV show each night. They emphasized the significance of this quality time.
“After all this time, we’re still madly in love,” Carlloyd remarked.