Morgan’s Mango Restaurant owner Carlos DiBlasi checks fire scene tape at the entrance to the Cruz Bay restaurant on Sunday, May 3, after an early morning fire Tuesday, April 28, heavily damaged the kitchen and office of the popular dining landmark. The dining area and bar of the historic Caribbean restaurant were left relatively unscathed by the fire which St. John firefighters were able to contain to the several small wood-frame structures forming “the back of the house.” DiBlasi and his wife Marie Ines, in bottom left photo, are planning to begin rebuilding their restaurant after insurance inspections. An internet GoFundMe site has been set up by friends of the restaurant owners which had raised more than $13,210 from 44 people by Sunday afternoon, May 3.
CRUZ BAY — As early-morning daylight streaked through the trees shadowing Morgan’s Mango Restaurant overlooking the waterfront on Cruz Bay Creek on Tuesday, April 28, the restaurateur’s signature black t-shirt was lost against the backdrop of the wet, charred remains of the kitchen and office of his Caribbean seafood restaurant.
Carlos DiBlasi stood silently in the driveway behind the family business he and his wife Maria Ines had built and maintained for more than 20 years, outside the back-door entrance of the landmark of St. John hospitality that now was banded by the yellow tape of investigators after an early-morning fire swept through a major portion of the collection of wooden structures that made up the restaurant’s “back of the house,”
While DiBlasi contemplated the business disaster before him, the first of what would be a steady stream of friends and fellow island restaurateurs began to arrive on scene — keeping their distance respectfully and waiting quietly for the much-admired restaurateur to notice their presence to give him support and encouragement.
Dining Area Deck, Bar Survive
The wood-deck dining area of Morgan’s Mango overlooking the V.I. National Park Visitors Center was left relatively untouched by the fire, which gutted the restaurant’s compact alleyway kitchen and the business office above the restrooms behind the bar — which only was singed by the heat of the fire in the adjoining buildings.
By Wednesday morning, Carlos and his wife Maria Ines were sifting through the remains of their business office and kitchen and making plans to rebuild their family business.
“We will reopen — soon,” Carlos said confidently as he began clearing debris.
The owners have to wait for insurance adjuster to examine the scene before demolition can begin to start the rebuilding, according to DiBlasi. The business carried liability insurance but has never been able to get fire insurance because of its wood construction, he explained.
Go Fund Me Fundraiser
While the Carlos and Maria were still dealing with the shock and assessing the damage, supporters launched an internet GoFundMe fundraising site for the popular couple with a goal of $50,000. More than $10,000 was donated by the first 30 donors, and by Sunday, May 3, the fund had reached $13,210 from 44 people in its first four days.
“People have just been so amazing,” Maria said of the community support.
“I can’t express how wonderful people have been,” Carlos echoed.
Those who can donate some time in the clean up are asked to e-mail email@example.com to be added to the list and to be contacted. DiBlasi expected work could begin on the rebuild as soon as possible after the anticipated insurance inspection.
Historic Hospitality Site
What has been Morgan’s Mango for more than 20 years, is one of the island’s oldest restaurant sites — started as the late Bob Nose’s Lobster Hut and had a short-lived existence as the World Headquarters nightclub — “too much noise,” according to a neighbor on the hillside above — before professional diver DiBlasi and partners Javier and Claudia Cividini opened Morgan’s Mango in 1992.
The property is owned by the heirs of the late Erva Boulon Denham.
“E.C. always wanted to help people get started in business,” Realtor B.J. Harris recalled. “She was probably the best landlady on St. John.”
After more than two decades of pleasing diners, Morgan’s Mango is the second-oldest fine dining restaurant in continuous operation on the island — The Lime Inn is reputedly the oldest — and Carlos and Maria are in it to stay.