‘Coconuts’ – a growing success story

Six years ago a small restaurant opened shop near Weston Road and Finch Avenue where it was surrounded by a sea of other family-based restaurants, many of which were pushing the same fare.

The Caribbean themed eatery featured a simple menu —chow mein, fried rice, delectable meats and veggies and flat breads — hoping to stand out in an area that was chockfull of Caribbean residents and commercial bodies. Competition was tight and turnover high making it the perfect area to test longevity.

Three years later, in 2008, Coconuts Restaurant and Lounge relocated to a larger venue near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue West, sharing a plaza with businesses such as LCBO.

“Weston Road and Finch was a little bit of a challenge due to the size of the establishment,” said owner Kishore Totaram. “Overcrowding was also an issue but that was a good problem to have. This is what motivated me to move to a bigger and more upscale location.”

The new ‘Coconuts’ boasted “elegance and style with superb hospitality, stylish menu or a sophisticated buffet and awesome entertainment.” Its bill of fare highlights a fusion of Chinese, West Indian and Caribbean cuisine with all the trimmings. But what may be drawing even more patrons is its lounge and nightclub combination which sets the tone for evening entertainment.

“Our mature people within our community, there is hardly anywhere in our community for them go to out and socialize and to have a nice time, I wanted to change that,” Totaram said. “I wanted to create an atmosphere where families can come and enjoy great music, great dining in a nice, safe, fun, friendly atmosphere.”

But the older crowd isn’t their main point of sale. Coconuts has diverse appeal to younger patrons who are among the restaurant’s most frequent patrons. According to Ajay Bulet, president of York University’s Guyanese Social Club, it was the choice venue for one of their largest fundraisers for two consecutive years.

“Last year was the first time we [had the fundraiser and] we chose the Herbie Fund,” said Bulet. The Herbie Fund is a Sick Kids Hospital service which provides free medical treatment to children in foreign countries who could not otherwise be treated in their home country. “We’re giving them money so they can fly over with their family and the doctor will do [the operation] for free,” said Bulet. The event, which was held on Jan. 16, attracted many families within the community and with their contributions through ticket sales, the club was able to raise $2,500.

York University, which has a large West Indian population, is adjacent to Coconuts and provides a steady stream of clientele to Totaram’s business.

This month, Coconut’s will be hosting monthly free concerts and family-based events. The line-up includes two Valentine’s Day weekend events for adults and families on Feb. 11 and Feb 12, a double feature on the weekend of Feb. 19 with headlining musical guests Devindra Pooran and Savitri Persaud and a Mashramani event on February 26 to celebrate Guyana’s Republic anniversary.

“I am rather overwhelmed by the outpour of support from the West Indian community, in particular Guyanese and Trinidadian,” Totaram said.

Coconuts Restaurant has had its serving of ups and downs but Totaram is committed to providing an environment where the young and old can enjoy the benefits of a social establishment that is culturally relevant.

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