Simone Caldwell carries out a tray of jerk chicken from the kitchen and gingerly slides it into the oven at her Pots and Pans Jamaican Cuisine restaurant in downtown Akron. She walks up to the counter for a rest and sighs. The only customer in the restaurant takes his cabbage-based order and leaves into the mad construction zone of downtown.

A long trek led Caldwell and her daughter, Lamesha Caldwell, to downtown Akron. It began in St. Ann Parish in Jamaica and then went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and finally to Akron. For her, the trip may eventually lead back to St. Ann. But for now, the question is Pots and Pans and what to do with it.

For now, they wait for the next customer. And that’s the problem, both women say. They’ve been waiting too long between customers. A fence outside blocks off the north lane of South Main Street outside their window; a handful of people walk the street.

The women began Pots and Pans in October 2017, and it went well. For a while. The women made enough to pay employees and cover their lease. There was hope it would develop into a thriving establishment.

Then on the day after their first anniversary, Lamesha Caldwell said, construction started on the Main Street Corridor Project.

Their fortunes changed as soon as work began a few feet outside their restaurant.

“Before it started, it was very hopeful,” Simon Caldwell said last week. “Now it’s hopeless.”

Lamesha Caldwell nodded in agreement. On the day work began outside, she said, business at Pots and Pans plummeted 81 percent from the day before.

And it hasn’t recovered much.

The change from their days in Jamaica has been stark. Simone, a nurse and businesswoman, ran a big operation in Jamaica, providing about 10,000 chickens a week to Chelsea Jerk Centre, a jerk food establishment on the Caribbean island.

“We had an industrial farm. We were farmers,” Simone said.

But she decided farming wasn't what she wanted to do anymore. She wanted to move to the United States, and she and her daughter wound up in Fort Lauderdale.

For a time, Simone worked as a nurse, but one day she thought it would be nice to leave the sickness and sadness behind, but still work with people.

“I wanted to see what I could do to still interact with people,” she said Friday.

She and her daughter moved to Akron, where Simone considered taking work again in health care. But while driving through downtown in the summer of 2017, they spotted a sign on the window of the current Pots and Pans location.

“I said to my daughter: 'Call the number; if we get somebody, we’ll start the restaurant.’

“In three months, we were in here.”

That was the hopeful time. Now Simone is worried about the future of her restaurant. She has laid off employees and cut her hours of operation in an effort to keep going.

“Business here in America, you’ve got to start paying before you make the money,” she said.

In Jamaica, she said, most of the government fees and taxes came after the business started generating revenue.

She has investigated help from the city, but decided not to follow through on a loan application. She’s not sure the assistance she’s eligible for would be enough.

If not for the landlord working with her, Simone Caldwell said, Pots and Pans might be closed already. “We don’t even make our lease in one month,” she said.

Simone said some customers who have made it in to Pots and Pans say that they weren’t sure businesses in the area were open.

“A lot of people thought the businesses downtown were closed,” she said.

Lamesha said she’s working with DoorDash, an on-demand food delivery service, and has seen some growth there. But she and her mother may decide that downtown is just not the best location for their restaurant.

Until then, Simone acknowledged that the Main Street Corridor project will bring needed improvements, but said that Pots and Pans will have a hard time making it to the finish line.

“I’m just going day by day,” she said last week. “Going through the motions.”

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or contact him by email at aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @newsalanbeaconjourna .