This 86-Year-Old-Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneur Is Still Working

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. April 16, 2024: “Music is my life and I still have to keep the momentum going from the past sixty years. I love to communicate and unite people. Doing nothing is not my goal.”

Miss Pat with husband and VP Records co-founder, the late Vincent Chin. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Chin archives.)

So says 86-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of VP Records, Patricia ‘Miss Pat’ Chin, as she and her team prepare for International Record Store Day 2024 which will be observed this Saturday, April 20th across the United States, Europe and parts of Asia.

86-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of VP Records, Patricia ‘Miss Pat’ Chin (Photo courtesy of  Alessandro Simonetti.)

International Record Store Day originated in the United States in 2007 and is celebrated in countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. The day brings together fans, artists and thousands of record stores globally in celebrating the culture of independently owned record stores and the vinyl record culture that has brought these stores into a new era of relevance. The organization Record Store Day provides promotions, marketing and other opportunities for stores throughout the year, maintaining a website, social media and other means of sharing its views about the value of independent record stores. A highlight of the day is the issuing of special vinyl releases along with other promotional offerings to mark the occasion, and which are only available at participating stores. 

Miss Pat with Grammy Award winner Shaggy. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Chin archives)

Miss Pat is eagerly anticipating VP Records’ annual Record Store Day celebration, which will take place this Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at their flagship store in Jamaica Queens and at  their retail store in Miramar Florida. Special guest for the day at the Jamaica Queens event will be VP recording artiste Romain Virgo.

According to Miss Pat “It will be a celebration of Romain’s new  album release, The Gentle Man, and also the work that he has done over the years. We want to honor his accomplishments from his Rising Stars days up till now. He will be present to do a meet and greet, take photos with his fans and sign copies of the album. It promises to be a fun day and will shine a light on the sound system and vinyl culture, showing everyone that our music is alive and well, even with all the stages that we have passed through.”

At an age when many of her peers are enjoying retirement and slowing down, the tireless Miss Pat smilingly asserts that none of that is on her agenda.

“I’m not retired,” she laughs. “I don’t think of myself as retired at all. I still have work to do and I still have my ears to the streets. I’ve been through it all- from mento, ska, to rocksteady, reggae, dancehall and dub and I’ve never lost track of the different trends in the music. My plan is to keep going and to keep preserving our musical legacy for as long as I can.”

Miss Pat and her late husband Vincent Chin together founded VP Records -the label name paying homage to their initials, V and P- in New York in 1979. They had immigrated to the USA from Jamaica having run a small record store, Randy’s Record Mart, and a recording studio, Studio 17, for some 20 years in downtown Kingston. From a tiny retail outlet on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, VP Records has grown to become the largest independent reggae label and distributor of Caribbean music in the world.

She believes that entrepreneurship was in her DNA, as she started her own business during childhood while growing up in Kingston as the eldest of three children born to her Chinese mother and Indian father. While at Alpha Girls School, she asked her father to buy her some rubber bands and marbles- popular novelty items amongst her schoolmates at the time- and, exhibiting her enterprising entrepreneurial  spirit, she sold them at lunchtime.

“Looking back,” says Miss Pat today, “Maybe that’s how my business sense began to develop.”

That business sense would stand her in excellent stead as she entered the predominantly male dominated world of Jamaican popular music later on.

“Back then in Jamaica, I didn’t even realize I was doing a man’s job. I was just doing a job to survive and create a business. I didn’t feel like it was a man’s job. My biggest survival skill was that I respect people, and they respect me. It was strictly business. I wasn’t afraid to approach people, and I learned these skills from my parents, who taught us to look after the community.”

Arriving and then working in the United States however, was another matter entirely.

“ My role at VP for the first ten years was what we would now call telemarketing- handling orders by phone with my son Chris,” she recalls. “It was mostly men who would buy records in those days and when they called and heard my voice they  would ask, “Can you put on a man (on the phone) to take the order?” And I would reply, “Why do you need a man?” They thought I wasn’t well versed in the music or educated in it. But I had spent so much time in the music industry- including twenty years running the counter at Randy’s back in Jamaica- that I was more than familiar. But being a woman, I had to work harder. I didn’t go to the dances. I had to study.  I had to ask a lot of questions, because I had to retain a lot of information.”

Her perseverance was instrumental to the eventual success of VP Records, which proudly boasts a roster of present and past artistes that includes many of the most popular reggae and dancehall stars of all time including Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Spice, Lady Saw, Morgan Heritage and Tanya Stephens. Many of them have become her close friends.

 Having survived and thrived amidst those early professional challenges- as well as overcoming several personal tragedies including the loss of her husband Vincent, two sons and a grandson- Miss Pat continues to persevere, determined to make a difference.

“This is why I do not even think of myself as retiring,” she says, “Because there is so much more to do. I do a lot of work with the VP Foundation which we created to give back by assisting in the development of young musicians, artistes and the culture. Once a year, we go to Jamaica to support our various charities including  the Alpha Boys School.  I also find a way to share my story to inspire others by doing events and festivals.”

In 2006, the government of Jamaica awarded her the prestigious Order of Distinction (OD) in recognition of her contribution to Jamaican music and culture and in 2021 she published her memoirs, Miss Pat- My Reggae Music Journey, to great acclaim. The book chronicles her entire life from early childhood in Kingston to becoming co-founder of her multi Grammy Award winning record label and international brand. She is also the first woman to have received the American Association of Independent Music Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’d like to think that I serve as an example to anybody out there who had a dream and who continues to be inspired to keep busy at any age, as long as you are able. This is why our celebration of Romain Virgo this Saturday is so important to me. He is very talented and represents the future. And the VP legacy that I helped to build will live on in artists like him.  So I plan  to enjoy staying active and doing what I love, which is to support him and the next generation as they take our music forward.”

VP Records is located at 170 -19 Jamaica Avenue, Queens NY, 11432 and at 6022 SW 21st Street  in Miramar Florida, 33023.

Record Day is free and open to the public.