From refugee to restaurateur: Syrian family opens business downtown

Members of a Syrian family who came to Sudbury as refugees in 2016 are taking another big step today. The Qarqouz family will be opening their new restaurant on Beech Street, called Damascus Cafe and Bakery. It offers Mediterranean and Syrian cuisine for eat-in or take out.

Damascus Cafe and Bakery officially opens today on Beech Street

Damascus Cafe & Bakery officially opens today on Beech Street. Hussien Qarquoz, seen in this picture from March, came to Sudbury with his family in 2016, fleeing war-torn Syria. (Kaitlin Pile)

Members of a Syrian family who came to Sudbury as refugees in 2016 are taking another big step today.

The Qarqouz family will be opening a new restaurant on Beech Street, called Damascus Cafe and Bakery. It offers Mediterranean and Syrian cuisine for eat-in or take out.

Hussien Qarqouz owned his own bakery in Syria, and wanted to do the same thing in Canada.

"We told him it would probably take about five years before he could do that, but he's very determined and convinced enough people to support him" friend Roger Pile said.

Pile has taught Qarqouz how to speak English and how to drive. He also helped the family set up the new business over the past three months.

"I was more the fix-it person. I did painting, building tables and putting up counters and things like that."

Pile admitted the hardest part to getting the restaurant up and running was helping Qarqouz with all the paperwork.

"It was all the regulations that Hussein wasn't aware of. In Syria you basically just found a room, or found a business and opened it up. He didn't understand about all the licenses, the fees and all the red-tape involved in making sure that the food was safe for people to eat," he said.
Hussein Qarqouz tried out his Syrian baking on customers while working at Golden Grain Bakery in Sudbury, as seen in this picture from December 2016. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Pile calls Qarqouz a wonderful baker.

"[Qarqouz] wanted to stay in Sudbury because he so appreciated the warm welcome that Sudbury has given him, and the support that they've given him," Pile said.

"I just hope that the people in the community of Sudbury are able to get into his restaurant and realize how wonderful the food that he makes is and support him, and make his business a success."

With files from Angela Gemmill