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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 , 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 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."

T.J. Weigel May 21, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I think that is AWESOME! My family will be there your 1st night open. Congrats, good luck and God bless!!
Vickie May 21, 2012 at 04:15 PM
The article didn't mention a lunch hour service. It would be a nice change from burgers or pasta. I'm looking forward to the tropical menu and wish them much success.
Brandon Baker (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Vickie, the restaurant will be open for more than dinner, but you can tell evening dining is a niche they would like to develop, so I focused a little more on that. I'm sure more menu and hour details will be released as their opening date nears. Thanks for reading.
Ann May 23, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I am all for new, local business. I hope it works out and will definately come try it!
Jeep Man July 31, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Why no follow-up on it not opening on time? If Patch is going to be a glorified press release outlet I don't know what all of you at Patch are doing.
Shmotz October 16, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Hi my name is TOM., Who can I contact about booking bands in the club? Please email me back ASAP! Have a great show for you.
Elliot Ness December 20, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The comment about to bad Obama is "half white" speaks volumes about your feelings for the majority of your customers. I will spend my money elsewhere and share your hypocrisy.....blatent racism.
Jason Lea (Editor) December 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Nobody made any comment about race in this story.
Elliot Ness December 21, 2012 at 05:28 AM
The owner did on another another blog site. A guy froze the page and has it on Clevelands Craigslist R&R. She was talking about whites being racist ruining the suburbs and said the only problem with obama is he is half white. I don;t think I can paste it on here. Try this http://cleveland.craigslist.org/rnr/3491151028.html

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