(Originally published at

by Jessyca Stansbury-McCargo

Baltimore, Maryland: It is easy to describe Mrs. Lynch. It is like looking into the face of an angel. She is very soft spoken with kind eyes, a strong jaw line, sweet smile and a perfect size 2. I first met her three years ago when I ventured into the record mart to get the [then] latest and hottest copy of Israel Vibration’s CD entitled: “Pay The Piper”. Had I not been so desperate to get my hands on it, perhaps I would never have entered the store. For it is located in the infamous Park Heights section of Baltimore City. But Neil Mattai and DJ Smalley had played the single: “Nuff Rude Boys”, and I felt that come hell or high water, nothing was going to stop me from getting it. So, off to the I Got The Hook-Up Record Store I went…

“Nuff Rude Boys
A bus big gun
All dem a do
Just to shoot dem brother down”
Park Heights Avenue

Every large Inner City in the U.S.A. has its depressed areas, where crime and poverty are as much big business as oil, militarism, and high finance are to the larger and more powerful [often forbidden] corporate structures often existing side by side like Jekyl and Hyde: two separate and distinct sides of the same body. The Park Heights [section] Avenue is to Baltimore City, Maryland what North Philadelphia is to Pennsylvania. When riding through one could be hard pressed to find any positive elements. But, like everything else in life, if you want to find evidence of life, you have to look for it. R&B singer Ben E. King, Jr. sang a tune many years ago entitled: “There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem”. Meaning, that contrary to any visible evidence, there is beauty and gracefulness where you’d least expect it. The “Rose” in the Park Heights section is the I Got The Hook-Up Record Store and the Hook-Up Ital Vegetarian Rastarant.

O’brian Lynch and his lovely wife are the owners and proprietors of both establishments. And it is a pleasurable experience doing business with them. Why? O’brian put it so succinctly: “I treat people the way that I want to be treated”. Mr. & Mrs. Lynch agreed to let me interview them as the youngest entrepreneurs in the city of Baltimore, a feat of great accomplishment, not to be taken lightly.

The Interview

Seated in the dining area of the Ital Vegetarian Rastarant, looking [and sounding] like a much younger version of Bob Marley, O’brian Lynch shares his secret of success:

Jessyca: What is your name?
O’brian: [Big Grin]

Jessyca: You are the owner and the proprietor of the I Got The Hook Up Record Store and the Hook Up Ital Rastarant?
O’brian: Yes, I am.

Jessyca: How long has the Rastarant been on this corner?
O’brian: Nine Months.

Jessyca: You are a Vegetarian? I know that you are Jamaican, are you also a practicing Rastafarian?
O’brian: Yes, I am a vegetarian. And a defender of the faith. Rasta means defender of the faith. Jamaica is where I was born, but Ethiopia is my home.

Jessyca: Is there a meaning behind the spelling of your establishment: R-a-s-t-a-r-a-n-t?
O’brian: Yes! “Ras” means the head. We should think and eat smart!

Jessyca: How old are you?
O’brian: 33 [Shares a very big grin with me]

Jessyca: What? Only 33 years old? Oh Gorm!
O’brian: Yes; I am 33

Jessyca: With your being so young, how does the community respond to you as a business owner?
O’brian: Very well, for the most part, the community is very supportive of my business. I am very active in the community also, I am a part of it, you know. In spite of the scenario, there are a lot of very wonderful people here in Park Heights. So I don’t just work and live here, I am part of the whole thing, you know?

Jessyca: Are there a lot of vegetarians here in the Park Heights section? And are you doing a good amount of business here?
O’brian: Yes, of course. I have customers to come from all around, not just from the Park Heights area. I have customers to come here from Towson, Downtown Baltimore City, Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, Philadelphia, Pa. There are a large [and growing] number of vegetarians in this area. Yes, I do a very good business.

Jessyca: When I asked if everyone in the community was supportive of your business, you said, “for the most part”. Can you elaborate on that just a bit more?
O’brian: Why, yes. There are [as you have everywhere] a few who are not supportive and don’t want to see anything positive happen here, you know…?

“We are Rasta, we don’t lie.”

[Later,as O’brian and Jessyca stroll through the Community]

Jessyca: So what happened?
O’brian: Well, there was a small group of individuals, and the occasion was the location of my dumpster. For a few people that was a problem. Saying things like, it was in the wrong place. Word around here was they had the authorities to try and come and shut us down. But there are always going to be negative people, you know? But you just can’t let that stop you from doing the positive thing in the community. Then another group would try to tell people not to come into the store. Negative things like that.

Jessyca: When I first entered your store three years ago, I was new to the Baltimore area and had a few bad experiences here and was finding it difficult to trust the business communities here. When I inquired of [your wife’s] willingness to be honest with me, her reply was: “We are Rasta, we don’t lie”. I was astounded! With a meekness, but a strong conviction she spoke these words. I was so impressed that whenever the need arises to purchase music, I come here. Because I know that I will be treated with honesty and respect.
O’brian: Well, my philosophy is this. I treat people as I want to be treated. Rasta believes that “Truth” lies within us. We speak truth all the times. It is an abomination to lie.

Jessyca: What would you like readers to know about the I Got The Hook Up Record Store and The Hook Up Ital Rastarant?
O’brian: To come on over and see us. Check the business out and see what we’re trying to do. What we are doing is showing the youths of the community that they have more choices than some of the ones they are making. To see that there is a different way, and that achievement is a mental thing. Park Heights is a wonderful place with wonderful people in it in spite of what you see and hear. So, everyone, come on over to 5232 Park Heights avenue to the Record Store and to 5260 Park Heights to the Hook up Ital Rastarant.

Jessyca: O’brian, tell me the story again about how you happened to save a man’s life here in this community.
O’brian: Yes, I kept him from committing suicide. He was very depressed over something and decided to kill himself when I happened to come to visit him. He was going to ah… ah… ah… shoot himself in the head with a gun. Other people knew that he was contemplating… ah… ah… suicide, but they just said to him, man you are crazy to think about killing yourself, but they just left him.
But I said to him, but you can’t do that. You can’t do that because if you die, you will be carrying a piece of me with you. You are a part of me. And that will make me feel very bad inside. As bad as things are, somewhere, somehow things are much worse for someone else. Then I told him the story that my father used to tell me:

“One day, there was a man who fell on hard times,
He was so poor that he couldn’t take care of his
family. All that he had was one banana. So he
peeled and ate the banana, threw the banana
peel down on the floor, put a rope around his neck,
stood on a chair and put the rope around his neck.

Just then, an even poorer man came into the
house, bent down, picked up the peel and ate it.
Immediately, the man knew that there was someone
who was much worse off than himself. So he made
up his mind to live afterall.

The next day, my neighbor came to my store and thanked me for saving his life. See, that is what it means to be a solid part of the community.

Israel Vibration: Pay The Piper
Nuff Rude Boys
Nuff Rude Boys
A bus big gun
Nuff a dem I know
Jus a take it for fun

That is not the way you must point it
That is not how you mus bus it
Don’t lick it because of a fuss
Yes bus it if it is a must!

Editor’s note: I Got The Hook- Up Record Store and The Hook- Up Ital Rastarant may be reached by calling (410) 367-6847 & (410) 466-2078