By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Leon and Elizabeth Barrett see a need, and they want to fill it. It’s the way they’re both wired, and it’s a blessing to so many in the City of Newburgh.
That’s why when the duo’s just shy of two year business, Steam fish Lounge, was forced to close its doors due to the Pandemic earlier this year in March for two solid months, they immediately figured out a way to still serve their customers food, radiating smiles, and much appreciated hope as well as love. Providing free dinners, drinks and desserts every Saturday night to anyone who wanted-needed one, the altruistic-minded owners continued to strengthen critical bonds with their customer base while developing new relationships with nearby residents.
“We wanted to help during this tough time in any way possible,” recalled Elizabeth, who carries the nickname “momma” to many of the children who regularly frequent the restaurant on South Street in the City of Newburgh. “A lot of the people who we gave those meals to ended up coming back as customers; it’s such a wonderful thing.”
It’s a giving spirit that did not just initiate with the onset of COVID. Rather it has been a part of the Barrett’s fabric, woven into their lifestyle and philosophy: to help as much as they can, whoever, wherever and however possible. Whether it’s contributing book bags filled with school supplies or offering restaurant discounts to Newburgh students, or simply providing a friendly, loving environment to local residents to listen to one of two television sets while enjoying fun banter with the owners and savoring delicious Jamaican or Puerto Rican food, the Barretts aspire to make their community a better place.
“We really love it here, especially the customers; we have a lot of regulars who are like one big family,” explained Elizabeth, as she got up to take the order from one of them who had just entered the 201 South Street eatery. “They are constantly telling us how much they love it here as well; they especially tell us how much they love the chicken and fries.”
In addition to the popular chicken wings and French fry options, the menu at Steam Fish Lounge features an assortment of other selections, including; the famous jerk chicken, stewed chicken, oxtail, plantains, empanadas, rice and beans and much, much more. However, perhaps more than the very loyal customers returning to satisfy their palettes, they keep coming back to soak in the general aura of the establishment.
Elizabeth is quick to cite a regular pair of senior citizen ladies, who came like clockwork once a week (pre-COVID), ordering food and dining indoors while listening to their favorite television shows, and of course, socializing with the Barretts and their staff.
“I miss those women so much,” said Elizabeth, who expressed her absolute love working for people, something she has been doing since she was 15 years old in retail. “They still order food, but can’t stay here to enjoy it because they are high risk.”
That similar changing restaurant dynamic has become a reality all over. And similar to the owners of many other local restaurants, the Barretts too had to lay off several of their staff members in the wake of the Pandemic. Fewer customers meant less money; however, things are starting to finally take a turn upward. Both owners feel blessed that they are now back in a place they love to work, provide nourishment for the community, and just simply give as much as they can with their loving hearts.
“At the end of the day, we don’t do anything we do in order to get attention on ourselves; that’s not what any of this is about,” said Leon, who grew up on South Street and was hard at work in the kitchen. “It’s about doing what we can, while we can, to make this block and this City a better place for all who live here.”