A hard-working Rochesterian and former UR Dining employee is only four days away from fulfilling one of her dreams. On Monday Sept. 13, Erlande Exeart, 39, will finally be able to open her long imagined Caribbean bar and grill on 104 Platt Street at High Falls.
From catering in the Meliora, Eastman School of Music, Douglass Dining Center and Danforth dining Center, Exeart has piled up nine years in the business. Now her UR experience will reach its milestone as she prepares Caribbean Chaceau for its grand opening.
Exeart, a Haitian-American, says that her new bar and grill is a testimony to the great things that can be achieved in the United States when you are focused.
“Nothing is impossible to do in this country,” Exeart said. “Sometimes [Americans] think that when they’re here for a long time, but coming from Haiti is a whole different story. You need to be from another country to appreciate America. The things I’m doing here aren’t easy.”
Before she could make any moves forward, Exeart had to take several bank loans to fund her business venture. She then went on to recruit staff and management for her restaurant — a decent amount of her staff members are also customers from her hair salon, Erlande Essence. After getting through the logistics and acquiring the proper licenses to serve food and alcoholic beverages, Exeart was finally able to set the date for Caribbean Chaceau’s opening.
Exeart intends for Caribbean Chaceau to provide a laid back Caribbean vibe for her customers. From Bahama Mamas to king crab legs and spoken word poetry to Caribbean musical performances, Caribbean Chaceau seeks to bring a diverse culture to an otherwise ordinary side of Rochester.
“The area we’re located in is somewhat conservative,” she said about the bar and grill, which is located next to giant engineering firm Stantec, LLP and software company Callfinity. “But I think this is an opportunity to add something different. It will be a really nice fit for the community.”
The Caribbean spot will include happy hours after midnight, a juice bar and a particularly healthy menu.
“I think it’s really important to have healthy food options,” she said. “Young people want to stay healthy and everyone else should also try to eat smart.”
Exeart says that she’s always had her eyes on the prize. Even when she first started working for Dining in 1999, she knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish.
In 2007, she was able to achieve her first goal when she opened her own hair salon, Erlande Essence on 1062 East Main Street, where she specializes in corn rows, kinki twists and dread locks.
For nearly a year, Exeart was juggling her shifts at Danforth while managing her salon and leasing apartments to college students. By 2008, she decided to end her 9 years at the University to focus on her salon and eventually get started on her bar and grill.
While managing her salon, Exeart had her eyes on opening the bar and grill that used to be Jimmy Mac’s on High Falls. The location is aesthetically optimal — with a clear view over the High Falls and the Genesee River, where the city hosts its annual laser light show and New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July fireworks –– customers can get their stomachs and eyes full at the open-roof patio dining srea. She is still making plans to move her salon closer to her spot at High Falls.
Exeart, a native of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, says that she is motivated by the struggles of her homeland and strives to give back to her people. Exeart still has several family members who are living in tents even months after the catastrophic earthquake in Port Au Prince on Jan. 12. Every other week, Exeart sends money and hygienic products to her family in Haiti in hopes that it will alleviate their stressful situation. Once business picks up, she plans to visit her homeland and hand-deliver water, food and other essentials.
Her desire to personally deliver the products comes in light of Bill Clinton’s announcement that less than 10 percent of pledged donations have been delivered to the poverty stricken nation, as well as allegations that Wyclef Jean used some of his charity’s, Yele, funds to for his own studio production finances.
Exeart can know for certain that what she delivers will go to the right place. She sees her new business venture as an opportunity to give back to her family.
“My family lost everything and I promised that I’d help them.” Exeart said. “Once [business] picks up, I’ll go to help them.”
If all goes well, by the end of Caribbean Chaceau’s first day of operation, Exeart will be able to kick back and enjoy one of its signature smoothies before preparing for the next day. Then she will be another day closer to going back home to Haiti.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.