MEETING – Nick Pinnock | Ti Kaye hotel
READ A BOOK CALLED “DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL”, A NOVEL BY HERMAN WOUK. This was in the nineties… 30 years after it was published, yet 20 years prior to knowing his life would rival that of Norman Paperman, a New Yorker attempting to flee the rat race to the Caribbean breeze and idealistic life of rum punch, sunsets, and island time. Unlike Norman, Nick actually grew up in the Caribbean. He was raised in a rural St Lucia with one channel on the television, a phone reserved for emergencies, and two siblings and a neighbor with 10 kids as his entertainment. A superb raconteur in his own right, Nick chuckled at my curiosity and excitement to his upbringing while he delved into story after story which he dubbed prosaic at best. Evidently 10 children in one home paled in comparison to his recent cab ride to the airport with a man who was one of 27 born to the same mother. He deemed himself an unlikely hotelier, his fascination with history and incredible collection of old maps seemed to hint at a previous life as a pirate or very least a nomad. Paying homage to his parents who ensured he garnered worldly experience in his youth, he admitted travel was vital to not only the birth of Ti Kaye, but the enduring success of the Caribbean resort. Sitting in Nicks epic underground wine cellar “Ti Kave”, he seemed relatively unfazed at his recount as a young 23 year old he took every penny he had, and then some, and invested in a piece of land in the middle of nowhere covered in thick rainforest. His original intention was to build a road to the plot and sell the land after a few years for a profit. 10 years later armed with a machete, 5 bushmen, and a design on the back of a piece of paper he found himself knee deep in a project he never saw coming. The parallels between Paperman and Pinnock began to surface as more wine was poured and our tour of the property paused. Nick recounts a story of a water shortage in the novel, his own experience, never fail, stranger than fiction had me in stitches. Discovering his shower was bone-dry the morning after a late night working in his hotel, he immediately ventured out to rectify the problem for his guests. He discovers an overflowing brown pool, a security guard who assumed Nick had requested this treatment, two empty water tanks, and a pool-boy pointing to the waitress he requested to “watch the hose” the evening prior.
His humility prevailed as more stories unearthed themselves and his mischievous smirk grew to a full grin while I timed my sips of cabernet to avoid choking on a punchline.
Admitting an eventual blatant over compensation for clean water on the property, he offered another story of a rogue employee failing to admit they broke the water valve choosing quitting over telling. Nick built his dock 6 times after 6 years of swells, he’s calmed a naked honeymooner domestic dispute, rebuilt retaining walls on Christmas, and even answered a 2am war cry from a chef who over indulged in party favors whilst simultaneously deciding to rearrange his room with fists of fury. Nick’s romanticized idea of a beautiful rainforest resort has undoubtedly been tested. His smiling eyes and guttural laughs provide no glimpse into the trials he’s endured to have one of the most sought after properties on the island. A lesser man would have likely done more than throw in the towel after the property opened just in time for the 2001 recession, but Nick continues to roll with the punches. The odds were against him in the beginning, bets against him prevailing were huge, even mother nature herself tossed in a few humorous attacks on the Caribbean dream. “Ti Kaye is now in its 17th year of operation and in my mind, it’s still a work in progress.
Nick built his dock 6 times after 6 years of swells, he’s calmed a naked honeymooner domestic dispute, rebuilt retaining walls on Christmas, and even answered a 2am war cry from a chef who over indulged in party favors whilst simultaneously deciding to rearrange his room with fists of fury.
I somehow thought that building would cease when we opened our doors, nothing was further from the truth. Since opening our doors in 2001, we’ve added a second restaurant, a dive shop, a dock, a spa and the largest underground wine cellar in the windward islands and perhaps the southern Caribbean.” A rare and still modest boast from Nick. Nick is seeing an upturn in health and wellness tourism and the rural nature of the island augers well for that. They have added a waterfront yoga sharla, more vegetarian choices, organic herb gardens and many more positive environmental practices which Nick admits saves him money and promotes sustainability on the property rather than attempting to receive a green badge to be trendy. At a glance, this accidental entrepreneur looks like the All-American runaway dream success story; a sunrise kite surfing, rum punch perfecting, sailing extraordinaire. Nick, despite his best efforts to assure me it did not come easy, does prove its possible despite the odds. We finish our tour of the property; the massive open cliff-side yoga deck on the water, the spa, the rooms playfully named in creole. I know there are scars from the wounds he’s endured which held zero humor at the time, but the most interesting people I’ve met around the world are more battered than they are pristine. This real-life account of a hope, a wish, and a machete has done nothing but urge the encouragement of pipe dreams we’ve all heard whispered through cubicles and mirrored in Papermans fictional life. “It’s been more of a journey than a destination. I see the complete irony in it all as what my journey has created, is a destination to others ” Nick finishes, and to some, that destination is even a dream in itself
“His original intention was to build a road to the plot and sell the land after a few years for a profit. 10 years later armed with a machete, 5 bushmen, and a design on the back of a piece of paper he found himself knee deep in a project he never saw coming”