BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
What does it take to run a small business? How much time, how much effort has to be committed to making something a success?
When Zaheeda Yhap, owner of Caribbean Coast Restaurant and Lounge in Scarborough decided to take on the challenge of running a restaurant it wasn’t her first choice for a business endeavor, but she was ready to rise to the occasion.
“I didn’t have any idea of how to run a bar or a restaurant, but I always had this entrepreneurial instinct in me to someday have a business of my own,” Zaheeda shares.
Zaheeda who prefers to go by ‘Zee’ enjoyed the idea of being her own boss. She had emigrated from Guyana to New York, and then after getting married moved to Canada in 1999, and settled in Ottawa. Initially, on a path pursuing a career in social services, she worked in various positions in that sector for a little while before contemplating a change.
In 2011 she moved her family to Toronto, and it wasn’t till 2015 that she was ready to dive in headfirst and tackle a business on her own.
“I enjoyed dealing with food, and I loved catering,” Zee explains. “I was thinking about opening a restaurant, something small but more along the lines of serving breakfast and brunch with a light dinner, then close up early and go home.”
Prior to being re-established as Caribbean Coast, the building had formerly been home to Mystic Restaurant and Bar, or as the club scene would remember it Mystic Lounge.
“When I was looking to open a restaurant it wasn’t going to be on that big of a level,” Zee explains. “I had been to Mystic a few times, they used to host parties there Friday and Saturday nights and when I heard that it was up for sale I decided to look into it.”
Zee recalls some great nights out on the town at Mystic Lounge, it’s intimate and cozy atmosphere welcoming and a great place to meet up with your friends for drinks on the weekend.
“When I heard that Mystic was up for sale, I went to inquire about it,” Zee says. “It was close to home and I always enjoyed the time I spent there so without giving it much thought I decided to give it a chance.”
Zee took over the business in August of 2015 without having much knowledge of the restaurant industry or how to run a bar. There was a lot to learn and Zee was prepared to embark on this new adventure.
“This was my first experience as the owner of a restaurant, since starting in 2015 we’ve maintained the place and welcomed the steady flow of business,” she reflects. “It’s now 2018 and we are still there.”
In 2016 Zee brought on business partner Terry Panday also known as DJ Terry who had been in the restaurant and bar scene for years playing music at various lounge parties.
“He was the DJ on the weekend and he was interested in becoming a partner, so he came on board as a co-owner,” Zee says.
Zee shares that owning a restaurant and a bar is a huge endeavor and for one person to do it alone it can become a bit too much to handle. Their late hours of operation and the nightlife on the weekends make it difficult to spend much needed time taking care of her own family.
“I have four kids, and it’s a challenge to maintain that balance between the restaurant and home.” Zee reflects. “My biggest challenge managing my own business is time. I dedicate fifteen hours a day to the business, while also ensuring that I give time and attention to my kids.”
Zee says that owning and operating a restaurant was no easy feat, but she jumped in and figured she would learn how to swim afterwards. She has been very fortunate that things have worked in her favour and that having even the basic know-how and common sense has allowed for her to get this far.
“I’m the kind of person who enjoys taking on challenges in life, and figuring it out along the way,” Zee says with confidence. “We come from a community where people enjoy telling you everything you’re doing wrong, but you can’t listen to those people, you block them out, stay focused on your goals and achieving the plans you’ve set forth for yourself.”
Zee is aware that there are many who would wait to see her fail, but she is resolute in who she is and what she believes. “In a West Indian world, being a woman is difficult, so you can only imagine the stereotyping that I get,” she acknowledges. “I don’t let it bother me or bring me down, I keep moving forward and thankfully all of the work I have put in has paid off and in 2018 my doors are still open.”
At Caribbean Coast, they promise authentic Guyanese and Chinese Cuisine, just like back home. They offer flavorful dishes with the warm and friendly hospitality of the islands. During the day they are a very family friendly establishment, they welcome families to bring their children to enjoy meals in comfort.
On the weekends they transform into the relaxed social nightlife, after dinner inviting patrons to experience live music, or take the mic and join in on their exciting Karaoke sessions.
“Our goal is to continue maintaining the food quality and customer service standard that will allow for many more great memories to be made at Caribbean Cove,” Zee proclaims. “This year we plan to open a patio where people will be able to sit outside in the summertime and enjoy the nice weather.”
Caribbean Coast is located at 2570 Eglinton Ave in Scarborough. It is the ideal place to acquire a meal for the entire family or if you just like to sip and chat with good friends, good food, and good fun. Stop by today and dive into a great time at Caribbean Coast!