BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
When we leave this world, we resign an everlasting impact to the people who knew us, leaving them with the memories of how we made an impression on their lives.
Owners Molly Beharry and Paul Sarwan established Molly’s Hotte Shoppe, in April of 2007. Between the two of them they had little experience in the restaurant business coming from backgrounds working in accounting and dispatching. Paul was familiar with restaurant work, having got a taste for it when he was still living in Guyana, but Molly was unsure of this new venture, as she had been working in Customs while she was still in Trinidad.
When they moved to Brampton, Paul decided that he wanted to do something different. Although they had no experience or financial backing they dove in head first opening a small West Indian restaurant and roti shop in the community. From the beginning it has just been Molly and Paul managing the restaurant. They never planned on expanding or opening multiple locations, instead opting to keep it an intimate setting with a small menu. Their intention was to serve the local community, not necessarily only catering to the Caribbean community who were accustomed to their style of food, but to allow other cultures to experience the flavors of West Indian cooking.
They are proud to say that after nine years they have amassed a wide range of multicultural clientele from in and around the area. People aren’t coming from far and wide to sample their food everyday, but they have customers that are loyal to them, enjoying and appreciating the homey and comfortable atmosphere they offer at their restaurant. At Molly’s it wasn’t about the extravagance of owning your own restaurant, but offering a convenient and relaxing place to make customers feel as though they can come home for lunch.
Opening the restaurant had always been Paul’s dream. Molly was never too keen on the idea, however she wanted to be there for Paul and support his aspirations to make his vision a reality. In the beginning Molly had no background in cooking. She was inexperienced in the ways of making Roti and she had to learn how to make Doubles from scratch. She had never spent time in the kitchen to see how these different dishes were made and so for the first few years there was a lot of trial and error to develop a working system to cooking food. Fortunately within the first couple months she was able to learn and their loyal customers supported them providing advice on how they could make their food even better.
When they first ventured into the business Molly and Paul couldn’t rely on the support of their family. Just the thought of knowing they were leaving their perfectly well established careers to open a doubles and roti shop was the most insane idea they had ever heard. Although the idea seemed unreasonable, Molly supported Paul’s dream, because she saw the passion in his eyes whenever he spoke about opening the restaurant. It was something he wanted to pursue and she wasn’t going to be the one to deprive him of that.
There were a lot of challenges running this two-person operation. Paul was very particular about whom he allowed in his kitchen. His food was his passion and he took pride in the dishes that he made, excited to be able to present his work to his customers. Paul always put his customer’s needs first, ensuring that everyone that came into the restaurant was satisfied before he left at the end of the day. Paul never even considered his bottom line, because fulfilling the needs of his customers was his livelihood. Both Paul and Molly committed long hours, dedicating time to learn and perfect their cuisine. Paul was meticulous in the preparation of his food and although she struggled at first, Molly worked very hard to keep up. There were many times when Molly wanted to quit, many sleepless nights that she spent wondering what she had gotten herself into, but they both depended on one another to be a support system and do whatever it took to get through each and every day. They always discussed how it would have been different had they not opened up the restaurant and stuck with their original careers, knowing they would have done a lot better for themselves. However, it wasn’t about that for Paul. Instead, opening the restaurant was something he loved to do, serving people was his passion and in the end is what brought him ultimate happiness.
Paul passed away on October 25th, 2015, only a few short months ago. His passing was sudden and has been a very traumatic time for Molly and customers visiting the restaurant who knew Paul well. Sometimes there are no words to explain the loss of a loved one and Molly has been having a difficult time sharing the news with Paul’s beloved customers who come asking for him, accustomed to seeing his smiling face when they walk in standing behind the counter. Paul made it a point to establish a relationship with each of his customers, addressing many of them on a first name basis. It didn’t matter if they were there two weeks ago or a year had passed, Paul never forgot who they were, and spoke with them heart to heart, sharing in things not many would coming to a restaurant. “It was like in that TV show Cheers, ‘Where everybody knows your name.’” Molly recalls.
Although Paul has passed away his legacy lives on in the restaurant he established with Molly. He didn’t open his restaurant for money, but as an outlet to which he could serve the community through his own purpose. Molly now works around the clock to keep the restaurant open encouraging customers to come and eat the same recipes that Paul used to make. Molly was trained to cook by Paul and while he is no longer preparing the food, she is working hard to maintain his cooking standards and provide customer satisfaction to everyone who visits the restaurant.
Molly’s Hotte Shoppe is located at 490 Chrysler Drive in Brampton on the corner of Williams Parkway and Chrysler Drive. They offer quality Caribbean style cuisine with many West Indian favorites including Hot Doubles, Aloo Pies, freshly made Roti wraps filled with Chicken, Goat, Shrimp, Veggies, Jerk Chicken or Fish and various other combos and lunch boxes prepared fresh for pick up or take out. After closing up shop for the day, Molly visits West Indian Grocery stores in the area to pick up all of the ingredients and spices that she needs to prepare and cook food for the next day.
Paul will be sorely missed by all of his customers, his close friends and family. He was a selfless man who knew the value in providing service with a smile. Molly says that she will continue to work at the restaurant, in hopes of continuing Paul’s dream and keep his memory alive at the shop while doing her best to be as good to her customers as Paul was to them.