Family is very important to restaurant owners Wali Noori and Freshta Neda. In fact, it may be the most important ingredient on their menu.
“Every successful man has somebody behind them,” said Noori. “I have been fortunate to have my wife, my kids and my family as well as support from the town.”
Noori opened Helmand Kabob House in 2013 in honour of his father Abdul Noori who died that same year. His father was a prominent and outspoken journalist in Afghanistan and the family was forced to flee the country in 1990 when extremists threatened his life. They lived for two years in Newfoundland before moving to Guelph.
Neda like her husband was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. When she was a teenager she and her family moved to Islamabad, Pakistan where she trained and worked as a hairstylist.
Neda and Noori were married in a double wedding along with her sister and his brother in 2005.
“It was marriage that brought me here,” said Neda. “I have eight sisters. He sponsored my whole family to come to Canada.”
Noori’s decision to sponsor Neda’s family was driven by family loyalties.
“My father-in-law passed away from cancer a year after our marriage,” he said. “My brother and I promised the family we would do everything we could and now my sisters-in-law are working hard to build their lives. It is a success story.”
Noori encouraged Neda to pursue her career as a hairstylist by helping her set up two separate salons here; Bravo on Bagot Street and Paris Salon on Victoria Road. She ran the businesses part time for two years but decided to close until her children are older and she gets the required licenses and certification to operate independently.
“I have to study for that,” said Neda. “I like it but I don’t want to work for someone else.”
Her time, these days, is split between their three children Soffia, Sammer and Summer and the restaurant.
“This business succeeds because of her,” said Noori. “I don’t think I could do it without her. She comes up with a lot of the good ideas and most of the time I get the credit.”
Their restaurant at the corner of Woodlawn and Victoria Roads specializes in authentic Afghan food but they serve a wide assortment of dishes from around the world.
All of their food is prepared Halal with no pork making it especially popular for people with religious and cultural dietary restrictions seeking western-style dishes such as Halal pizza.
“This year alone we have tripled our sales,“ said Noori. “We have offers to sell the business at least once a month. They either ask to franchise it or just sell the whole business but I don’t see a reason to sell.”
Their growing popularity has convinced them to open a second location in Ajax operated by Noori’s sister and her husband but they have no plans to franchise.
“No, it is an independent, family-owned business,” said Noori. “When you franchise it then anybody can own it and that is when you lose your value.”
The family recipe is working too well to mess with the ingredients
“When we took on this business I believed in myself and I believed in her and this is where we ended up,” said Noori. “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”