Veteran nurse fulfills dream; opens bakery

Registered Nurse Cynthia Williams-Bernard (left) in front of her newly-opened Ethlyn’s Caribbean Bakery.
Photo by Nelson A. King
Photo by Nelson A. King

One would hardly think that a registered nurse, with over 40 years of experience, would engage in the bakery business, but Cynthia Williams-Bernard has done just that, fulfilling her life-long dream.

Last Saturday, on a blustery and cold, wintery morning, Williams-Bernard, opened her first bakery in the heart of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.

Williams-Bernard said the bakery, named Ethlyn’s Caribbean Bakery, after her grandmother Ethlyn Hector, replaces the Vincy Bakery at 1621 Nostrand Ave., between Tilden Avenue and Beverly Road. The Vincy Bakery had closed its doors about a year ago shortly after its former co-owner Nicholas Clouden died.

“I thought about doing something for my retirement and decided to open a bakery because my parents had a bakery while I was growing up,” Williams-Bernard told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview at the bakery, as Caribbean soca and calypso hits blared in the background. Her late parents were Ezekiel and Marion Elizabeth Williams, of Richland Park in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Williams-Bernard – who works full time with the United States federal government, at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, in charge of hospital programs – said she plans to retire from nursing in about two to three years.

In the meantime, she said she will be at the bakery on evenings and weekends, with a young employee in charge during the day.

Williams-Bernard said her compatriot Hezekiah Hunte will be the baker on hand seven days per week, with assistance on Saturdays from Barbadian Andy Williams.

“I chose bakery also because it does not conflict with my job,” said Williams-Bernard, disclosing that serious thought about launching the bakery came about a year ago. “Anything I’m doing should not conflict with the federal government. They have very strict rules about conflict of interest.

“My goal is to expand (bakery) in a couple of years – get a bigger place and do delivery,” she added, stating that she chose the current location because it represents a wide cross-section of the Caribbean community.

A Haitian bakery is located two doors down, but Williams-Bernard said she is not worried about competition since that bakery’s specialties and clientele are different.

“The Haitian bakery is not a threat to my business,” she affirmed, stating that she specializes in a wide variety of “freshly baked” Vincentian and Caribbean goods.

Among the mouth-watering delicacies are: Beef, chicken and codfish patties; cheese roll; pine and coconut tart; jam puff; red belly; Bajan and coconut turnover; cassava pone; bread and sweet potato pudding; currant and coconut roll; codfish cake; fried bakes and codfish; escovitch fish; Jamaica bulla; cross and cinnamon bun; heavy bread; coconut sweet bread; penny bread; and hard dough wheat bread.

After graduating from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ School of Nursing in 1970, Williams-Bernard said she worked as a registered nurse at home for four years before migrating to New York.

In New York, she said she worked in nursing with the State’s Department of Health for six years before joining the federal government.

Her stint with the federal government includes 10 years in Miami, Fla, where she investigated Medicaid fraud and abuse.

[Medicaid is a jointly-funded, federal-state health insurance program for low-income and needy people, covering children, the aged, blind, and/or disabled and other people who are eligible to receive federally-assisted income maintenance payments.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia provide Medicaid eligibility to people eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. In these states, the SSI application is also the Medicaid application. Medicaid eligibility starts the same months as SSI eligibility].

Williams-Bernard said she re-located to New York in July 2011, with the hope of realizing her bakery dream.

“I’m just following my dream and hoping the community will fully support me along the way,” she said.

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