A star is born in the Bahamas

A star is born in the Bahamas

Henry and Teymarae Rolle are a husband-wife team who took on an ownership stake in Rock House Harbor Island Bahamas.
Henry and Teymarae Rolle are a husband-wife team who took on an ownership stake in Rock House Harbor Island Bahamas.

Plucked from his managerial role at a luxury resort in the Bahamas, Henry Rolle found himself presented with an unprecedented opportunity: to own a piece of a 14-room boutique hotel.

Such chances are rare for locals, making this offer truly remarkable.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” says Rolle, who with his wife Teymarae took over the helm of the famous Rock House Harbor Island in Dunmore Town, Bahamas.

In a first-of-its-kind business venture to vest a native of the Bahamas into a redevelopment effort, developers Don and Kelly Jenkins offered Rolle the opportunity of a lifetime: to step into the shoes once filled by Texas iconoclast Wallace Tutt, and to breathe new life into 1940s boutique property Rock House.

“When Don and Kelly Jenkins sought to revitalize Rock House they believed its future should be entrusted to islanders,” Rolle says. “And I was approached and asked if I wanted to own Rock House Harbor Island. A deal like that is unheard of for any local living in the Bahamas and I was thrilled to accept.”

In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Rolle shares insights about his vision, and that of his wife and partner Teymarae Rolle for Rock House Harbor Island, Bahamas.

Boxerbrand: Tell me more about your unique situation.

Rolle: I realize this story is a bit unusual. But, the opportunity came about in 2021, after Don and Kelly Jenkins decided they wanted to buy Rock House Harbor Island and develop it along with the vested help of the island population. Before they contacted me, I had been managing Belle Island for four years, and I developed a reputation that was so well thought of that when Don and Kelly decided they wanted to proceed, my name floated to the top of their list.

I’ll never forget it. We sat down together and they asked me how I’d feel about owning the Rock House.

My wife and I entered into an agreement where we own the business itself under a lease arrangement of the property.

Boxerbrand: Please tell me more about your journey.

Rolle: Before coming to Rock House I was part of the team that helped make The Dunmore on Belle Island the best hotel and restaurant on the island.

I was there for 11 years, and I had the honor of leading their team during my last four years there. Thankfully, the friends I’ve made in the 11 years working at The Dunmore have shown incredible support when told I would own The Rock House.

With their help, we’ve been able to help Rock House become the best restaurant on the island and among the top three hotels on Harbour Island.

Boxerbrand: How has your success as an islander owner helped other island residents?

Rolle: Owning a business has given us the authority to actually offer incentives to our employees that we could only suggest at our last jobs.

Our biggest incentive, and the one we’re most proud of, is the free education program we’ve started for our employees.

As an incentive package, our employees are all offered the opportunity to pursue a higher education degree with Cornell online, and a few of our team members have already received their degrees.

We have faced challenges convincing all of our team of the value of this opportunity, but our goal is to help them succeed.

Boxerbrand: How did you capitalize on your position to build the Rock House’s brand?

Rolle: The Rock House was already a great brand when I came on board during the pandemic, so there was no need to entirely rewrite the playbook.

Our island is known worldwide as a super friendly place, and so all we had to do was pull aside and retain the super stars of the hotel and pull in people from around the island who were on the same page as us, which was to parlay the best of the Bahamas into an exclusive, luxurious hospitality experience.

Boxerbrand: How did you improve the Rock House property?

Rolle: We did a lot of physical renovations to the property itself, beginning with a massive improvement to our water supply. We disconnected our water system from the city water and installed a system that flows only filtered, bottled water throughout the entire property.

We redesigned the rooms, and extended the bar. We built a courtyard for the enjoyment of outdoor, live band performances, and we also bought a building next to our property and converted it to a four-bedroom villa.

Our entire property has been refreshed and updated.

Boxerbrand: What sort of rebranding did you do?

Rolle: This property has always been an adults-only boutique, and we decided that needed to change. We wanted to make Rock House inviting for people to come and enjoy the company of their children and grandchildren. So we rewrote our policy to allow children in the hotel, and emailed our customers.

Boxerbrand: What was the response to the decision to allow children on your property?

Rolle: The majority of our customers loved the idea, and rebooked with us and many brought their children. And we were able to to attract additional customers with children through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Boxerbrand: How have you accelerated customer growth?

Rolle: We negotiated a deal to list our property with Expedia. It’s such a small thing, but we increased our bookings by 20 percent just by allowing direct bookings on Expedia through our website. This also has helped us with our marketing efforts.

We were also lucky enough to be included in the National Geographic Caribbean 2023 edition, and they were gracious enough to mention that we were locally owned now, and they helped introduce us to the world.

Boxerbrand: What makes it special that Rock Harbor is island owned?

Rolle: Our guests can go anywhere on the island and feel connected to the place because so many on our island are vested in making their stay a great experience. So for example, a guest may be walking down the street and bump into an employee on his or her day off. And they’ll get a friendly greeting, and we encourage that. We want people to feel as welcomed as they would in their own home town.

Boxerbrand: Tell me about your restaurant.

Rolle: We have a bohemian chef who has reworked our menu into international Caribbean fusion. We’re one of the few upscale restaurants in Harbor Island, and our reputation still stands for exquisite cuisine and exceptional wine.

Rock House Harbor Island uses Boxerbrand’s Classic Leather menu cover line in their table presentation. Thank you!

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