Mum who started Caribbean food business with her last £15 during lockdown is opening her own restaurant

A former dental nurse who opened a Caribbean food business when she was unable to work during lockdown has opened her own restaurant. Abbie Owens started The Jerk Stop after using her last £15 to buy ingredients for a meal which she then sold to a friend.

When orders for her “jerk chicken munch box” started pouring in, she decided to make a business out of it. She opened her own stall in Hyde Market and her food received rave reviews from customers.

After a two-year whirlwind, Abbie, who had never cooked Caribbean food until just days after lockdown in March 2020, now has her own restaurant in Haughton Green, Denton. “I can’t believe it,” said the 44-year-old. “It still doesn’t feel real.”

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“I’ve kind of sunk into the depths, but I’m so happy to have a home. It’s a great environment. Every day I come here feels like Christmas morning.”

When the UK went into quarantine two years ago, Abbie, who worked as a self-employed dental nurse, found herself unable to work and not entitled to furlough pay. Short on cash and with no savings to speak of, she taught herself several recipes from YouTube videos.

Abbie Owens founded The Jerk Stop after finding herself out of work during lockdown

With just £15 under her belt, she decided to put her skills to the test and bought some ingredients to cook a meal. When she uploaded a photo of her efforts to Facebook, a friend was so impressed he offered to buy the food.

Word spread quickly and Abbie was serving dozens of meals a day in her small kitchen at home. As business boomed, she found space at a local cafe in the evenings and used the money she had managed to save for a vacation to cover the rent. In November 2020 Abbie moved the operation to Hyde Covered Market.

The Jerk Stop quickly attracted a loyal following for its popular dishes, including curried goat and jerk chicken with rice and steamed vegetables. But, because Abbie wanted to serve food and make deliveries in the evening, after market opening hours, she decided to look for another venue last August.

Stays at Masons Arms in Dukinfield and a site in Marple didn’t work out, so Abbie briefly returned to dental work to raise money for a trailer. However, the cost of feeding the trailer made the business financially unviable.

The Jerk Stop at Gibraltar Lane, Haughton Green

Abbie said she had ‘almost lost everything’ before she stumbled upon an empty former cafe in Gibraltar Lane, Haughton Green, earlier this year. She moved into the building on May 11 and hasn’t looked back since.

The interior of the site has been refurbished with recycled furniture while Abbie employs a small team, including her 21-year-old daughter, and several delivery drivers. Its expanded menu now includes lamb chops and salmon dishes, and Abbie says business has been booming since it opened.

“It’s been very busy,” she said. “I work 18, 19 hour days but it’s worth it. I’m not making a fortune but business is doing very well.

“I didn’t even expect to have a stall in the market, so the last thing I imagined was having my own shop.”

The jerk stop is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Michael M. Tomlin