New owner of The Best of Both Worlds Linda Gabriel outside of her Mongoose Junction gallery.
After visiting the island for a decade, Linda Gabriel decided the time was right to live her dream.
“My girlfriend moved here 11 years ago and I’ve been visiting ever since,” said Gabriel. “I just fell in love with the island. We would come down once or twice a year or more if we could.”
Last month the New Jersey resident packed up her bags and made the move from St. John visitor to resident and business owner. Gabriel bought Best of Both Worlds in Mongoose Junction.
A mother of two with a background in art and retail, Gabriel’s new endeavor offered the opportunity to pursue both of her passions.
“I used to own a gift shop back east for years,” said Gabriel. “It got to the point where Christmas-time wasn’t fun anymore. I just didn’t want to be around that anymore and my kids were really little so I closed the shop.”
Gabriel grew up surrounded by art and artists, visiting her aunt Agnes Ainilian in Washington, D.C. often, she explained.
“My aunt was Agnes Ainilian who had the Ainilian Gallery in Washington, D.C. so I grew up around artists,” said the new gallery owner. “I got to meet so many of her artist friends from potters to glass makers.”
Glass sculptures, paintings and more can be found at the Mongoose Junction gallery.
With the hustle and bustle of her suburban home life wearing on her, Gabriel dreamed of living in paradise, she explained.
“We started talking about moving and what to do if we did actually move,” Gabriel said. “This gallery has been for sale for a while and I knew about it. I was just waiting for the kids to get a little older.”
With her two little ones in their toddler years, Gabriel and her family spent a month on St. John last year, which got the group hooked on island life.
“We came down last summer for a month and the kids cried when we got home,” she said. “We were all depressed when we got home we missed St. John so much. I decided, ‘That’s it, it’s time.’”
Hitting the beach each afternoon is just one of the wonderful things about life on St. John, Gabriel explained.
“We’re really happy to be down here,” she said. “The kids love it. We go to the beach just about every afternoon — you can’t beat that.”
“I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic,” said the new gallery owner. “I love that there is not one traffic light on this island. We are living in vacation-land.”
Gabriel, along with Fifi her Chinese Crested dog, is also settling into running Best of Both Worlds with the help of long-time sales associates Jan Beaty and Pat Mulvihill.
“It’s great here,” said Gabriel about the Mongoose Junction gallery and gift shop. “I really love the shop the way it is. I’m going to be bringing in some of my aunt’s artwork; there will be some originals and some prints.”
“We have great jewelry, paintings and sculptures,” she said. “When I look around, it’s amazing that there are so many great pieces.”
Paintings by Candice Greathouse and Jennifer Robinson, jewelry by Barbara Heinrich Studio and Barbara Herche and photos by Steve Vaughn are just a few of the great finds at Best of Both Worlds. The gallery and shop is chock full of everything from glass sculptures to decorative trivets.
“We have a lot of local artists and artists who have a feel for the island and share that island flavor,” said Gabriel about the shop’s eclectic collection.
Best of Both Worlds can ship anywhere, Gabriel added.
“The best thing is that you can come in here and pay and leave,” she said. “We ship it wherever you want and you don’t have to think about it again.”
The new Best of Both Worlds owner is interested in carrying more local artwork and encouraged artists to stop with a sample of their creations.
During the summer, Best of Both Worlds is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The shop’s hours will expand in the high season. For more information call the gallery at 693-7005.