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Blog Home > Archive (December, 2019)

Have you ever met someone who immediately makes you feel welcomed into their life? Someone who makes you feel like you matter? That’s how it feels to meet Nina Squires, owner of Beach Bubbles soap shop in Bodden Town (and the entire strip mall, but we’ll get to that in a second.)

When I met Nina on my first full day in Grand Cayman, I was, well, nervous. It was my first trip to the island and my first time working with CCC. As soon as I met her, my anxiety was gone. She reminded me of one of my biggest—albeit fictional—idols, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She had a sunny disposition, was a hard worker (she was prepping a massive order when I arrived), and was, above all, kind.

When I started asking about her business and her life, she answered my questions very matter of factly, seemingly unphased by the past and I was genuinely surprised by her coolness. Her story isn’t an easy one to tell, but she does it with a grace that is truly admirable.


Humble Beginnings to a Colorful Future

Nina was born in New York but grew up in Connecticut. Her family was in the hospitality industry and they came to Grand Cayman often; they even owned a home on the Northside of the island. At one point, Nina decided to stay for an extended time. She got a job at a local hotel and originally intended for six months...27 years later, she’s still here living the dream.

When asked what brought her to Grand Cayman, she nonchalantly says “God...and an airplane.”

Today, Beach Bubbles is one of Bodden Town’s most popular tourist stops. It’s famous for the unique, colorful, handcrafted soaps and other natural products, but it wasn’t always that way. Beach Bubbles was started out of, for lack of a better word, desperation.

Ten years ago, Nina co-owned a business with her best friend in Cayman, but the deal went south and Nina was left homeless, with half a million dollars stolen from her, and no best friend. She and her rabbit moved into a vacant shop offered by a friend (in the same building Beach Bubbles now lives). She knew she couldn’t sleep on the floor of a shop for long so she racked her brain for ideas. What would she do? Could she open a new business? What would it be?

She had been experimenting with soap making for awhile before this, but just as a hobby. When one of her friends suggested she turned her hobby into a business, she thought the idea was ridiculous, but she wasn’t in a position to say no. So, she did it. With the help of some friends, she started Beach Bubbles. She started mixing soaps, experimenting, and creating a product—a product that now attracts thousands of people every year, many of them repeat customers who stock up for the year.

But it didn’t happen overnight, and this is the part of the story when Nina replaced Leslie Knope as my biggest idol. For nearly seven years, while she built her business, Nina did everything she could to make ends meet.

She sold her car, slept on the floor of her business, and even hooked up a hose and showered in the back room where she made her soaps. It wasn’t an easy time, but Nina never gave up. About four years ago, Beach Bubbles took off. Nina was not just back on her feet, she was floating on air.

“I got up everyday, and I did what I could do,” Nina said. “After I let it go and said ‘you’re going to be grateful and that’s it,’ Tripadvisor stuff started to happen, all this good energy started to happen.”


Not only is the "Be Happy" soap pretty to look at, it's great advice to follow.


She's Got What You Neem

Nina contributes a lot of her success to the Neem, a tree that has been used in medicine in Eastern cultures for centuries. It has been used to treat everything from leprosy to malaria to liver problems.

She did her research, did some experimenting, and created an entire line of neem products. She started selling them in her store not knowing how popular they’d be, now people come to Beach Bubbles to stock up products made with this miracle plant.

“People would say ‘I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried every ointment, I’ve spent thousands of dollars, but this is what worked.’ It’s helped hundreds of people,” she said with a glimmer in her eye. “I just felt like God sent me that neem tree to help people, because He knew I would and I’m not charging more for it than I would for my other stuff.”

As she talked about her neem products, I have to admit, I was skeptical. I grew up watching cheesy infomercials with “miracle products” on TV and learned that most of the time, that stuff doesn’t work at all. But something about Nina made me trust her.

As soon as I walked into her shop she noticed the nearly dozen mosquito bites I had on my arms, legs, and face (yeah, that was annoying) and recognized that I have a heightened sensitivity to them. Since I was a kid, mosquitos follow me around like moths would a flame and their bites would swell, turn bright red, and itch for weeks longer than normal. I’ve tried everything in the past and had essentially given up on remedies because nothing worked. Nina gave me a bottle of her neem lotion and I tried it because I was too polite to express my doubts. To my surprise, it worked! My bites no longer itched and were virtually gone after a couple of days. Her “Bug Off” mosquito repellent lotion also kept me from getting any more bites the entire week I was on island.

As far as I’m concerned, Nina is a miracle worker.


"Never Give Up."

Four years ago, Nina bought a run-down beach house across the street from her store and has been fixing it up. For the first time in years, she had hot water and a real shower.

The real cherry on top of the sundae that is Nina’s life came last September when she was asked to purchase the building that houses Beach Bubbles. She now owns the entire plaza with the goal of creating a tourist destination in Bodden Town. She’s added an art shop featuring local artists and already has a tenant—Cayman Cigar Co. (we’ll learn more about them soon!). A coffee shop is currently under construction in the last suite in the building set to open sometime in 2020.

She’s living the dream.

“I got up and started my whole life over again,” Nina said with tears in her eyes. “I just fought and worked every single day, and I can tell you, to this day right now, the Lord is good.”


One of Nina's favorite pieces on display in the art shop.

My New Friend

While I visited with Nina, another customer came into the shop and I watched her interact with them. The customer had come in a few days prior to get a few things, but had returned because she needed to share the Beach Bubbles products with her friends back home. It was like she had known Nina for years. The two chatted about the soaps and lotions around the store, the customer raving to her mother that Nina’s “heart shows in every single product.”

At one point, the woman mentioned how she’d been visiting the island for years with her family and that her father had missed their trip last year because he was ill and passed away a few months later. She teared up, as anyone would, and Nina joined her in that pain—she’d lost her father a couple years before, too. The two went from raving about the products to hugging each other, sharing in the mutual pain of losing their fathers. I couldn’t help but tear up myself when Nina showed the woman the photo of her father she keeps at the register.

When the guest parted, she said “I love you, Nina” and Nina returned the sentiment.

After giving me a tour of the rest of HER plaza, we chatted for a little bit longer and she gave me tips for getting around the island (since I had no idea what I was doing) and told me to call her if I needed her because she understood how scary it was to be in a new country almost by myself and thought I might need a friend. She was right, of course. I didn’t end up needing to call her, but I did go by and visit my new friend before I left to thank her for her hospitality and show her how well the neem had worked for me. She was thrilled.

People visit Beach Bubbles for the first time to get colorful soaps for their friends, but they quickly find the shop has so much more to offer. Not only do people come back again and again because they fall in love with these special products, but they also come back because they fall in love with Nina’s kindness. I know I’ll be back again and again to visit my new friend.

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The holidays are a big deal on the Cayman Islands full of Christmas bus tours, big family gatherings, delicious meals, and a lot of fun. Caymanians spend months preparing for Christmas (and sometimes even months preparing dishes for the big day—Christmas Cake we’re looking at you). It’s truly a magical time of year, but if you aren’t able to celebrate in Grand Cayman, don’t worry—we’ve gathered up some traditional Caymanian recipes that will give you a little taste of Cayman while at home.

Main Course

Cayman Style Beef

One of the best ways to bring Cayman to your Christmas dinner is with Cayman Style Beef. This tradition holds a special place in Cayman culture, reminding us of a time beef and other foods weren’t easily accessible on island. Each family had their own recipe, adding different ingredients that fit their tastes. Even today, the beef takes all day to cook.

Making Cayman Style Beef takes patience, so if you’re up for the challenge, follow this recipe and don’t be afraid to add your own ingredients too!

Cayman Fish Rundown

Traditionally, Caymanians had little choice but to get most of their food from the sea. A popular dish was fish rundown. Rundown, a thick stew or sauce, has been popular on the island for a very long time but is most commonly referred to in tradition as Fish Stew or Fish Dinner. This simple yet hearty meal could be made in large batches and, again, could have a variety of ingredients based on available fish and preferred spices. Typically, the meal includes the gravy or sauce, fish, and starchy dumplings.

If you’re wanting to celebrate the holidays with a truly beachy flavor, try Fish Rundown for your Caymanian Christmas meal.

Photo of Fish Rundown courtesy of National Trust.

Photo of Fish Rundown courtesy of National Trust. 

Sides

Rice and Peas

Don’t let the name scare you away. Caymanian “rice and peas” are actually just a special twist on black beans and rice. Made with coconut milk, this side dish has a taste of the Caribbean you won’t find in other versions of rice and beans. It makes the perfect side for your holiday supper.

Cayman Style Potato Salad

Just like in the states, potato salad is a staple at Cayman events. Potato salad is served at Easter, casual weekend get-togethers, and, of course, Christmas. Cayman potato salad is similar to potato salad made in the states, but a distinct difference on the ingredient list are beets which add unique flavor and color.


Dessert

Macaroni Pudding

I know what you’re thinking: “macaroni for dessert?” It sounds crazy, but Macaroni Pudding is one of Cayman’s most popular desserts. Much like bread pudding, this pudding meal combines a delicious combination of sweet spices, raisins, and, yes, elbow macaroni. Trust us when we say it tastes great!

Christmas Cake

Christmas cake reportedly originated in England and eventually made its way to the Cayman Islands where it has remained a popular holiday staple. Comparable to a fruit cake, this dessert includes a variety of fruits, spices, and, of course, rum. Christmas cake can take anywhere from 48 hours to a year to prepare and is very customizable. Every family has a different way of making their Christmas Cake and the tradition is taken seriously. We found this basic recipe for you to follow and modify as you wish.

Photo courtesy of National Trust.

If you're interested in learning more about Caymanian style cooking, check out one of the National Trust's Traditional Cooking classes next time you're on island.

Caymanians love the holidays, and love sharing these traditions with others. By incorporating some of these traditional dishes into your holiday celebration, you can have a little bit of the islands in your own home.

If this taste of Cayman wanting more, then call Lisa or Josephine in our office at 345-945-4354 to book your stay with us in Cayman or you can book right now online.


Thank you to the National Trust for allowing us to use their photos in this article. If you're interested in learning more about the National Trust and their Traditional Cooking Classes, visit their website.

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