Emrith, Savi and family close a chapter at Caribbean Curry House.
Over the past 39 years, there have been many moments of extreme joy at the Caribbean Curry House on Victoria Street in uptown Cote des Neiges for our community and other Montrealers, lots of eating, drinking, socializing and endless shyte talk and laughter.
Who can forget all the occasions and reasons we have had to be there: The Friday Nite Lime; for the get-togethers with visiting artistes out of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenada and across the Caribbean; Uptown Street Festival, the Children’s Christmas Party; Maddy as Santa Claus or just nice, little get-togethers with friends and family. The place had become synonymous with fun and good times.
Well, over the past two weeks or so, the same place has been transformed into a space of extreme sadness, which is best expressed by Emrith Kalliecharan in a recent interaction with a long-standing customer:
“He came to the restaurant and we told him like we’ve been telling others that Savi and I have decided to sell the restaurant and move on to another chapter in our lives.”
Emrith says he was taken aback as the man broke down and started crying.
“We had to take him to the back where, of course, I started crying also and then Savi. Before you knew it we were all in the back of the restaurant bawling our heads off.”
Such has been the runaway emotions at play since Emrith and Savi made it known that they have sold the restaurant that has been a fixture in our community for Montrealers and other Quebecers going on 40 years.
Speaking to the CONTACT recently, Emrith and Savi say it’s one of the most difficult decisions they have had to make in their lives, but all the indicators over the past few years have been pointing to the fact that it was time to move on.
“I think health, well-being and a better quality of life was the Number One deciding factor,” says the 60-something year-old Emrith, who admits to having one or two health issues in the recent past, including a mild heart attack.
“To keep this restaurant successful and running properly, it demands so much of our time. And although we have had a great staff, Savi and I had to be here day and night almost every day of the week.
Savi says it’s a bittersweet moment because she absolutely loves everything about the restaurant especially the clientele, with she interacted almost daily over the past 24 years that she has been there.
“It means that we can’t do simple things that other couples do. We had zero social live. At this stage in our lives, we want something different,” she added
Emrith said it really hit him recently when his son asked him if he knew anything about the Toronto Raptors or the scores in cricket and soccer, games that he has always been interested in. He had no clue.
Of all the highlights that he has experienced running one of the most popular joints in Montreal, Emrith says it’s the relationships and bonds that he formed with our community and other Montrealers over the years that he will be taking with him.
“Those relationships are priceless and I’m hoping to continue to build on them on a personal level now that I’m not in business.”
He says over the years Caribbean Curry House has had the privilege of helping many individuals and organizations in our community and he hopes he can continue to do so, even as a private citizen.
And together with his family extends a massive “thank you” to the tens of thousands of Montrealers that have passed through the doors since he opened them in November 1980, just downstairs of the current location.
Looking back, the hard-working Trinidadian says it was inevitable that he would have a business here in Montreal.
“I was literally born at my father’s business place in south Trinidad. Almost everyone in my family, here and in Trinidad, is an entrepreneur.
Back in 1980, I had a very good job as a computer technician but I wanted more. So I encouraged my brother to go into business with me. We invested just over $20,000 in the restaurant.”
Emrith says in less than a year his brother decided to move back to Trinidad and he was left with a choice of walking away from the business or going it alone.
“I bought out his share of the business and eventually quit my job and invested my time into building this business.
At the beginning it was very difficult. There were days when our total sales were less than $100 and we had three employees to pay. But we carried on. I think it’s a lesson to anyone who has a dream. Just do it.”
He added that in addition to the massive support that Curry House received from the community, he credits the inroads they have been able to make among mainstream Montrealers for the success of the place. Today they make up a significant chunk of his clientele.
After several years of outlandish increases in his rent, Emrith was able to purchase the building of his current location in 1992.
He said his biggest joy was being able to work with his family –brother, sister, children and wife Savi Podai, who joined him in 1994 to take it to the next level.
Above all he is proud of what he built the Caribbean Curry House into.
“I still think it’s a gold-mine, but you to have to dig for that gold. It’s a lot of hard work.”
He’s confident that the new owner Ian Parris, a Kittitian-born entrepreneur and his wife can continue to make a success of Curry House.
And he pledges his continued support and assistance to them in making it happen.
If there’s a tinge of regret in all of it, Emrith says it might be the fact that the business was not handed down to his children, but it’s not how the situation played itself out.
With their eyes set firmly on the future, Emrith and Savi are looking to some nice trips to wherever they feel like, and getting back to Montreal to sit and have something to eat and drink with friends at their home.
On behalf of the Montreal Community CONTACT family: Thanks Emrith, Savi, Radha, Sharon, Vijay, Ms. Lyn, Preet, Christine, Nadia, Mona, Ricky and Victor.