Our History

Ruth and Ron Come Ashore – And Really Spice Up Their Lives

from Bob Tis, St. John Tradewinds Newspaper 2002.

Ruth and Ron have come ashore

The affable new owners of the St. John Spice Company at Wharfside Village have ended a Caribbean boating adventure that has amused locals and entertained tourists at Pusser's Beach Bar for the last five years.

I would never have believed it five years ago if someone would have even suggested to me that I would be involved in a retail business on a tropical island," commented Ron at the couple's aromatic shop this week.

"The time has come to live on land. ” Added Ruth of their adventure, "It was a great experience and well worth doing."

Post-Marilyn Visit Never Ends

The adventure started back in 1994 when the couple was vacationing on St. John and frequenting long lost local watering holes like The Secret Garden Bar and Grumpy's. Their affinity for St. John increased and the next fall after [Hurricane] Marilyn ravaged the island, they decided this was the only place they wanted to spend their tourist dollars.

And spend they did.

"We were staying at the Tamarind Inn, and it was December." Ruth recalled. "A winter storm was forecast for Massachusetts and we didn't want to go home. We went to the front desk and said 'may we stay five more days.'"

Then it was five more days and five more…

"Pretty soon they would see us and just say, 'five more days?'" Ruth said with a laugh.

It was on one of those extra five days that Ron was sitting at Pusser's Beach Bar and watching an old 36-foot sloop that had sunk in the hurricane being hauled up in Cruz Bay Beach.

Salvaged Boat Becomes Home

Ruth & Ron on sailboat after Hurricane Marilyn on St. John

"I had never even owned a canoe," Ron said.

They went to Gary Moses of Noah's Little Arks and asked him his opinion of the salvaged wreck, which at the time had a giant hole in the stern and thick mud in the cabin.

"He said 'don't buy it,'" Ruth remembered. "So we did."

The couple spent three solid weeks just taking mud out of the hull with big plastic buckets they borrowed from the Beach Bar.

"We had no tools, we were on vacation," said Ron.

In time the couple learned to love the boat life.

It didn't take much arm-twisting to get Ruth to abandon the stress associated with the high tech industry. And Ron figured he could build things here just as easily as he could in the suburbs of Boston.

Repaired Boat Becomes Home

Shoes Without Socks

"The whole boating community is really a great community," Ruth noted. "Everybody really looks out for each other in Cruz Bay."

"There is great freedom to it as well," noted Ron. "I loved falling asleep under the stars and the moon and waking up with the sunrise."

Meanwhile back home the snow continued to fall. Ruth and Ron found themselves spending all their time in Cruz Bay, fixing up their boat, which is named Shoes Without Socks.

"It's everyone's dream," Ruth notes. "People at home thought we were crazy with some of the risks we were taking but sometimes that's the way you have to do it."

Cruz Bay Harbor Landmark

Ron laughs when he remembers how many tourists at the beach bar would see the unlikely boat, floating without a mast, and ask, "Who owns that?"

When Ruth and Ron weren't fixing up the interior of Shoes Without Socks they were making ends meet with Ron doing construction and Ruth working at the Lime Inn.

Inside our boat Shoes without Socks at Christmas after renovations.


Pretty soon they were working part time for Island Hoppers/Paradise Spice. Before they knew it they were the managers for the off-island owners.

From Live-aboards to Business Owners

Now they own the Wharfside Village business, which is the leading purveyor of local spices, hot sauces, jams, jellies, coffee and tea along with a number of unusual gifts.

The added responsibility made it time to move on land, but the couple says they wouldn't have done it any differently and they still haven't completely grown up.

"The whole live-aboard lifestyle is a great way to go," Ron noted. "We learned a lot – and had a lot of fun."

Still, running a year-round business will be a lot easier on terra firma in Love City, Ruth admitted.

Now, the couple explains, it's someone else's turn to get a new start on Shoes Without Socks.