Sisters Take Jamaican Flavours to Harlem

by Oct 24, 2021People, Taste

Take two sisters, Juliet and Justine Masters, with roots in Jamaica, New York and London. Add a generous serving of seasoning, allow to marinate and then slowly reduce. The result will place you firmly at The Edge, Edgecombe Avenue, Harlem, where the siblings have presided for the last 18 years. They have nourished their community in a setting that harks back to the Harlem Renaissance, when literary giants like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston once presided there.

Juliet (right) and Justine Masters are New York natives who have lived in Harlem for the last 18 years. Their restaurant, The Edge Harlem, is an ode to the community and pays homage to the spirit of Harlem honouring those who came before. The building that the restaurant resides in has its own unique history as a meeting place for key figures of the Harlem Renaissance such as Langston Hughes.

Juliet’s a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute and has over 15 years’ experience in the culinary arts, while Justine, who comes with a background in real estate, fashion, and music, curates the ambience and the décor, while also managing the world music sound that keeps patrons curious and entertained.

The menu reflects the Jamaican motto ‘Out of Many, One’, and indeed the sisters’ lives from their birthplace in New York, to summers with their grandmother on Par Drive, Kingston, Jamaica, to the United Kingdom at their mother’s home. It’s been a tantalising journey based on offerings like coconut fish burgers, curried chicken salad with mixed greens and plantains; shrimp and parmesan grits, buttermilk pancakes and berries; savoury pie of the day and fish and chips. It has been a rewarding, albeit ‘buck-up’ journey, drizzled with highs and lows. Long story short, The Edge, which opened in 2014 as, according to Eater NY, ‘a risk that’s paying off’, happened when the sisters, facing eviction (the owner was selling), were forced to rent commercial space. There was no business plan, investors or restaurant ownership experience, but, feeling that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they forged ahead until they eventually found a safety net. Or so they thought.

“COVID-19 literally came from nowhere,” shares Justine. “We were first told to reduce our diners by 50 per cent and then were told that it was delivery/pick-up only!”

It was a jolt that they are still recovering from. They moved into survival mode.

“When the pandemic hit, we chose not to close but remain open for delivery and takeout. Restaurants are a place of gathering and community. It has been a challenge to try and replicate an in-house dining experience through pick-up and delivery. We are located in a residential neighbourhood so we are feeding families as well as those living alone, so our menu reflects the diversity of our customers and their needs,” they explained.

Juliet and Justine have been able to retain almost half of their staff and are already contemplating their place in an industry that has changed forever.

Their advice to fellow restaurateurs:

  • Always stay level-headed and find the solution.
  • Be smart and fearless. Understand that challenges are great teachers. Use this moment to find creative ways to flip and pivot your business to meet the new needs of your customers.
  • NYC is full of options and choices even in a pandemic. Consistency is important. Streamlining your delivery is key to survival. Offering discounts to loyal/repeat customers is beneficial to both the restaurant and customer.
  • Daily specials are key to keeping this fresh and “exciting” in these times.
  • Use social media to keep in touch with your customer base and keep them abreast of how your business is evolving and how they can support you. People want to support! Create ways for them to do so – gift cards, offer specials, promotions, giveaways, etc.

As far as recovery is concerned, it is going to be a long road here in NYC. We are going to follow all guidelines provided to the restaurant industry with regard to the safety of both the customer and the staff. It is a day-by-day situation.

The Edge Harlem

Address: 101 Edgecombe Avenue, New York, NY 10030

Tele #: 212.939.9688


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