Busco, a condensed Caribbean culture


Difficult not to feel in the Caribbean when you push the door of Busco. In this colorful shop located in Grand Case, the walls are covered with paintings by local artists. The smell of spices and the sound of reggae echo the hut that sits in the middle of the shop, dedicated to tasting. Rums, jams and hand-painted shot glasses are exposed on wooden shelves with mesh doors voluntarily reminding the “lolos” of yesteryear: these small shops where one bought everything by the piece, well before the arrival of supermarkets. Several traditional objects, such as a copper rice dispenser, found in various flea markets to decorate, seem to insist on the authenticity of the products offered.

Kathy Vermeulen and her husband Denis Busco wanted to recreate what they perceived in navigating all the Antilles for six years with their two children. In short, they wished to bring forward in their shop a condensed version of the Caribbean. What is Saint-Martin in some respects and which led them to settle there ten years earlier. They are the third owners of a company founded in 1993 by a Mr. Gassia, a creator of flavors.

On the island where nearly all consumer goods are imported, local products are scarce. Selling products with the label of “Saint-Martin”, takes a bit of imagination and above all to play on the local transformation of external products. Or even offering original and craftsmanship and packaging.

Whether tamarind, mango, coconut, sweet potato, or guava seed, Busco jams are intended to make the people discover traditional Caribbean recipes. They are handmade in their workshops in Guadeloupe with local fruits. “It has been several months that we do not have apricot jam in the country. Customers are surprised but I tell them it is because we work with nature and when it is not available, we don’t have any, there isn’t any” explains Kathy Vermeulen, manager of the shop. Meanwhile, Denis Busco is mainly taking care of the rum production. He offers between 25 and 30 different flavors, manufactured on site with fruits purchased on the island, from an agricultural rum from Guadeloupe coming from the Severin family estate, also on sale in the shop. “We are their representatives and our goal is to make discover their whole range of rums, especially the old ones” she explains.

Spices sold by the bag come from many of the surrounding islands but also from around the world: Guadeloupe for the Colombo, Dominica for bois bandé, Brazil for pepper. Denis Busco is passionate about cooking and pastry and has put different recipes online to use these herbs wisely. “We have a large clientele of Caribbean grandfathers and grandmothers who buy spices for cooking (turmeric, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon), but also for healing,” notes Kathy Vermeulen. And to assert that its clientele is very mixed and extends from residents to tourists, as well as restaurants.

To transform products in gift ideas, part of the bottles and jars is hand painted. For almost a year, it is the painter Lisa who is working on this. Art and craftsmanship are intrinsically linked to the spirit of the shop. As evidenced in more paintings, various sculptures and totems that adorn every inch, or even works of local authors are on sale on the countertop. “This upsets me saying that there are no handicraft in Saint-Martin” says Kathy Verleumen showing some hand-stitched fabric pouches and that she sells as spice bags. “There is a niche but it's a question of will” she says before telling: “we stayed several years without offering magnets while many customers requested them. But we were not interested to import them. And then one day, we met a lady who makes them with recycled materials: wood pallet, old fridges magnets and seeds that she picks up at Pic Paradis.”


Fanny Fontan