Mentor Student at Helm of Soon-to-Open Maracas
Ambika Bridgemohan will forgo a four-year education to help her family operate a Caribbean restaurant to open on Mentor Avenue.
The Bridgemohan family had two choices regarding 18-year-old Ambika's future.
"Either she goes to college and she's in $100,000 in debt after four years, or we take that money now and open a business for her and she can learn it from the ground up," her mother Deborah said.
The family decided on the latter and, on July 7, they will open Maracas, a Caribbean-flavored restaurant to be located at 7597 Mentor Ave. Instead of enrolling at a four-year university, Ambika, who will soon graduate from Mentor High School, will be the restaurant's vice president.
Allowing a daughter to forgo college in favor of a startup would be tough for many families, but Ambika believes her Trinidadian roots played a role in taking the calculated risk.
"We're the type of people who can just go with the flow," she said. "I think that's just the island type of energy.
"Nothing's set in stone, ever, for us."
Maracas is Ambika's brainchild and framed around her mother's desire to expand on prior experience managing a bar and grille. Deborah also got her start in business at 18. The family has been in the United States for more than two decades.
"I think a lot of times we underestimate the ability of the kids," Deborah said. "We think teenagers are crazy. I would say I have very responsible teenagers, both my kids, my son is in the Navy. Both of them, as far as I know, they're doing the right thing."
Ambika plans on taking some online courses, but will spend most of her post-graduation time trying to make Maracas the city's latest hot spot. The family is in the process of building the bar, finish the menu and painting some of the restaurant.
The Bridgemohans envision indoor and outdoor family dining until about 10 p.m., followed by drinks and dancing to live music or a DJ, depending on the night. They'll provide 20 to 30 jobs at the restaurant.
The menu will feature a blend of Trinidadian cuisine and American food and drinks tinged with mango, passion fruit and other favorites from the island.
"You're going to come here and eat a meal that you will never find anywhere else unless you go down to the Caribbean," Ambika said.
The women said they weren't fazed by the location's turnover. A hot dog restaurant and teen dance club were among the failed concepts there in recent years.
"I feel like using the space efficiently is what's going to make this work," Ambika said. "It needs a new theme … We want to have a down-to-Earth, Caribbean feel. I feel like anyone who sees it or would walk in would get that feeling if they ever have been to the Caribbean."
Ambika said her venture has the support of friends and teachers at school. She has received some negative feedback, but hopes to inspire others who might consider going into business instead of a traditional college education after high school.
"I feel like right now I just have to do me in a sense, do what I have to do and feel is right," she said. "That's where we started off a few months ago, and it's taken me to the right place so far."