BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Imagine yourself relaxing under a full moon on white sandy beaches, the ocean breeze cool on your skin and a cold drink in your hand. The waves break over the shore and you can hear Soca music playing in the distance. The night is warm, the atmosphere alive a perfect tropical night!
When Nizam Ally immigrated to Canada from Guyana at the young age of seventeen, he was unable able to read or write. He left Guyana in search of new opportunities, he saw no future back home and although he had no friends or family he was a determined and hard working young man that would do whatever it took to make his way in this new country. With a few dollars in his pocket and hopes and dreams to guide him Nizam stayed with some relatives before moving out and taking up residence with some college students for roommates. Without the correct documentation he was unable to apply for college here in Canada, and so instead he registered with a job agency to find him odd jobs here and there so that he could have some money just to survive.
When he arrived here in October of 1973, the Canadian winter was already well on its way. He didn’t own a winter jacket, managing to brave the cold in a windbreaker during his first three years in the country. He accepted any jobs that the agency sent him to always making the extra effort to make sure that he was an exceptional employee. He might not have been educated, but he was diligent in every task he was asked to complete, never complaining and always getting the job done to the best of his ability. Over the years he had done a little bit of everything from working as a dishwasher and a bus boy, to factory worker, cutting leather for the insides of shoes. His only goal was to work hard and save up as much money as he could. At the time the concept of having money for himself, or even having a savings account at the bank was a huge deal for Nizam. As the years went by he worked and saved taking note that although he was not formally educated, he still had an admirable work ethic. “I always told myself that educations comes in many different shapes and forms,” he recalls.
Realizing that he could better utilize his work ethic by applying the same dedication and hard work to his own business by working for himself, Nizam considered the possibilities of opening his own business where he could be the boss. He contemplated what type of business he would invest in, reminiscing on family time or gatherings in Guyana where he always wanted to be the center of attention, and host of the show. He was multi talented, taking on the task of DJ or bartender, organizing the entertainment just to make sure that everyone at the party was having a good time.
It brought him a sense of comfort to know that he could bring life to any party, whether he was needed behind the bar to tell stories and share drinks, or be the first man on the dance floor to get the party started, his family and friends always made sure he would be in attendance, letting him know that the party wouldn’t be the same without his infectious energy and presence.
The combination of all those elements brought one answer to mind. The logical thing that he could do to replicate that experience night after night would be to open a restaurant and lounge where people would could come, experience relaxing Caribbean vibes and have an all round great time!
Nizam wanted his restaurant to stand out above the rest, to go the extra mile. He didn’t want to open just another West Indian restaurant or roti shop. He wanted his establishment to be unique, and so he brought in elements like straw, bamboo and exotic plants with other props to mimic the tropical scenery of back home. In his restaurant Nizam wanted to recreate the relaxing vibes and atmosphere of Caribbean culture, a place that people would remember and tell their friends and family about.
“Bringing all of those elements really made a big difference in the success of my business,” Nizam says proudly. “Even after twenty-five years I’ve always kept with the same Caribbean theme that gives the place that sort of resort feel and reminds people of life on the islands.”
Tropical Nights opened on September 11th, 1991. Nizam invested all of his savings at a smaller establishment, on a gut feeling that this business would be a success. In their first couple years they saw lots of success, as it became a popular place for people to come and hang out. They brought in a very mainstream and diverse crowd of people even receiving a Reader’s Choice award from the Toronto Sun.
They quickly outgrew their first establishment, and after four years they moved to an even larger place with a patio that can currently accommodate up to 200 guests with bright vibrant colours of carnival and paintings of vivid Caribbean themed landscapes. When people visit his restaurant they feel like they are somewhere in the Caribbean and Nizam’s entire design concept is to make people reminisce about life back home in the islands. “People are spending thousands of dollars just to experience the Caribbean in their travels there, so I thought why not bring it here to a local dive that’s an affordable relaxing and comfortable place for people to enjoy.”
Over the years Nizam has faced the many challenges of running your own business, everything from being discouraged, ridiculed and conflicts with business partners. Being open seven days a week leaves time for little else and because of that other relationships in his life have suffered. As a man who is dedicated to serving and giving back the community Nizam said he feels humbled when his patrons tell him of their amazing experiences, or other local businesses and services in his area benefit from the work he is doing at the restaurant. He has dedicated his service to the community walking from Toronto to New York and back three times raising money for Save the Children with aspirations to walk from here to Guyana on his 65th birthday. His business suffered after an incident at the restaurant that was damaging to the brand and also his time away from the restaurant while on his walks could be felt long after he came back. Although he has been knocked down many times he always gets back up, ready to prove himself again. He prides himself on knowing both the back and front ends of his business and his love and passion for the business interacting with people and ensuring they have a good time is what brings him happiness.
This year Tropical Nights is celebrating twenty-five years and Nizam would like everyone who has helped him and encouraged him on his journey thus far by letting them know how much their efforts mean to him. He would like his children to know that he is apologetic for how his career has taken up the time he should have spent with them and his business partners Nigel and Sudesh for their current partnership in the business.
Join them for a tropical getaway where friends gather for good times, good food and good music with the tropical vibes of the Caribbean. This Saturday October 8th they will be hosting their 25th Dinner and Dance Anniversary Celebrations and they invite you to bring your friends to enjoy the amazing food exciting prizes and giveaways. Tropical Nights is a full service restaurant with mouth-watering dishes, come out and enjoy a unique dining experience!