Jenny Grondin, above, recently took over as manager of Friends of VINP Store in Mongoose Junction.
With an artist’s eye and a managerial mind, Jenny Grondin is ready to take the Friends of the Park Store to a whole new level.
As the non-profit arm of V.I. National Park, Friends of VINP has long raised critical funds to support the park and educational programs using its vast cultural and environmental resources. The group first opened its retail store in Mongoose Junction, in the old St. John Canvas Factory location, in 2007 under the management of Angie Warren.
After about a year, Karl Pytlik took over the reins of the store and expanded its stock of local art and eco-friendly designs. Pytlik, a water lover and St. John coordinator for the Caribbean Oceanic
Restoration and Education Foundation, recently accepted a position with V.I. Eco-Tours on St. Thomas, leaving Friends with a vacancy at its store once again.
Friends of VINP didn’t have to look far to hire his replacement. After posting advertisements in local papers, the group was thrilled to hire Grondin, explained Friends’ executive director Joe Kessler.
“It’s always good to have a new, fresh perspective,” said Kessler. “Jenny has different experiences and a different outlook and she’ll build on what Karl did and take it to the next level.”
Grondin — who moved to St. John from Brooklyn just over a year ago — was part of the team which opened the Love City outpost of the New York City Fatty Crab empire last year, and has six years of art gallery management under belt.
After getting the restaurant up and running, Grondin was looking for something more to do and a way to get more involved with the St. John community, she explained.
“I was looking for ways to get to know the park and the island a little more,” said Grondin. “I approached [Friends of VINP development director] Heather Ruhsam over the summer about getting involved with Friends and how I could play a role in the group.”
Grondin approached Ruhsam a few months before Pytlik put in his notice at the store, Kessler explained.
“We didn’t have a lot of time with Karl leaving in a few weeks, so we put the word out and advertised,” said Kessler. “We had eight candidates and three made the short list. Any one of the three would have really worked out.”
“It was a tough decision, but a really nice tough decision,” said the Friends’ executive director. “We really appreciate everyone who applied.”
It was a combination of her artistic and marketing background which bumped Grondin to the top of the list of candidates, Kessler added.
“She’s relatively new to the island but she’s committed to the community and really believes in the mission of Friends,” he said. “She has management experience and an artistic and marketing background. Jenny will be a great compliment to our team.”
And for Grondin, who grew up on a small island off the coast of Florida surrounded by nature preserves, running the Friends of VINP Store is a home-coming of sorts.
“When I was a child, my parents lived on an island next to a wildlife refuge and I grew up with educators,” she said. “I’m really happy to bring that back into my life.”
For more information about Friends, or to volunteer for the group, stop in the Friends of VINP Store at Mongoose Junction or call 779-4940.