Jamaican immigrant opens as a food vendor at Worcester Public Market
WORCESTER – Venice Fouchar of Worcester, owner of Ma Maebelle’s One Love Café at the Worcester Public Market, immigrated to the country from Jamaica in 1975 at the age of 14. She came to the country with the help of her mother, who came here in early 1960 to prepare for American life before welcoming her daughter here.
Fouchar was originally from New York, where she went to school, founded a fashion design company, later married and gave birth to their daughter.
When Fouchar moved to Worcester in 2001 to visit one of her sisters who lived in the city, she said she immediately fell in love with the peace and quiet of the city after living in New York for years and started thinking about it to move to Worcester.
But she said when she was walking around Worcester, there was no “cultural clique” for her. In New York, even in the 1980s or 1990s, Fouchar said she could always go to one of her favorite shops in Jamaica to get a cup of coffee and start her day with her morning routine.
Also, Fouchar has always referred to herself as an artist, but she said there are no cultural centers where she can work artistically. As a designer, she wanted to find an artistic connection and create something. That’s when she got the idea to bring something Jamaican to the city.
Fashion first love, cooking second
Fouchar attended fashion college in New York and later attended the Fashion Institute of Technology.
She gave birth to her daughter during her senior year at college. After graduating, she started her fashion design business called Venice Fouchard Couturiere in 1989, making couture, gowns and cocktail dresses that were sold in specialty stores and to personal client requests.
Back when she finished her tennis game and went home in Worcester, she always passed 800 Main St. It was empty, and she said she would always look through the window and think about the possibility of opening her own business there.
Fouchar opened her first Jamaican restaurant, One Love Café, there and ran it until 2015, before opening as a grocer at Worcester Public Market. It was a coffee house where Fouchar also infused her love of fashion design by displaying artwork on the wall.
For her, cooking is also design, she said. Fouchar said she loves the creative part of cooking when preparing various Jamaican dishes.
“I remember when I was a teenager when my mother asked me what I wanted to be. I think back then there was something on TV about how designers travel and I was always thinking about being able to travel anywhere, anytime I want, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a designer.’ ‘ said Fouchar, recalling the time her dream of becoming a fashion designer popped into her head.
Better education, better opportunities
Although Fouchar immigrated to the United States after her mother received a work visa sponsored by the owners of the company where she worked, she looked forward to being in America and accepted the challenges of moving here.
“I was excited about the change. I was excited to be in America,” she said. “For me, the whole change was good. The change was exciting. She had great opportunities and I was excited.”
Fouchar’s mother was already working in the United States when Fouchar was 9 years old. Her father did take good care of her in Jamaica those days, but she understood that her mother was trying to give her a better life, she said.
She was forced to work hard for a better education here in the US because she said she didn’t have similar educational opportunities in Jamaica.
Fouchar has five sisters and three brothers. In her mother’s mind, daughters played increasingly important roles in the family, she said.
“In order to really better provide for our family, my mother decided to migrate here and work hard and bring all her girls here so that we can have a better education and better opportunities,” she said. “I think she pulled through all of that because all six of us happened to be at things that (are) professionals that we love and enjoy (our jobs).”
She said that there were no earning opportunities in Jamaica compared to the US, and for her, the opportunity to pursue the American dream only came when she arrived in America.
“Here was a better opportunity to see it and go to college, and I’m sure[I]probably wouldn’t have made it to college if I had been in Jamaica,” she said. “Now that I’m here, I could be anything I wanted to be thanks to the education that was surrounding me at the time, and I probably benefited from that.”
Open a Jamaican grocer in the public market
Her new shop at Worcester Public Market is Ma Maebelle’s One Love Café, named after her grandmother who was a huge inspiration to her. Fouchar fulfilled her grandmother’s dream when she came to the US, she said.
Between 2015 and 2020 Fouchar did more catering and events.
When she opened her café at Worcester Public Market in 2020, she said it was what she hoped for when she first came to Worcester – to work in a diverse market that welcomes all.
“This is such an exciting time in 2020 that we are opening here at Worcester Public Market and the whole vibe that brings (all of) Worcester to life and I love it,” she said.