Home Business St. Thomas business @ Work: Kokopelli Café

@ Work: Kokopelli Café


Dec. 23, 2004 – When you go to Kokopelli Café for some pizza, you'll probably be greeted at the door by the owners, Ahmad and Carla Suid – or maybe even one of their children, Jenna, Tiffany or Adam (6, 5 and 4 years old). Maybe they'll help you decide which of the mouth-watering daily specials you want to try, or they might be clearing a table or chatting with customers. It's obvious this is a warm, family place, and it's easy to settle in and enjoy the food.
The Suids opened Kokopelli Café in Market square just over a year ago and they're already expanding. In January, they'll be opening a second location downtown in Historic Bakery Square, which has just been renovated.
"We are bringing back to life the old town center bakery. We're going to be baking out of a Dutch oven," Suid says. The new Kokopelli Café will serve the same menu, but will have breakfast as an additional feature. Dining will be indoor and outdoor; there will be lots of lunch carry-outs, and lunch delivery to surrounding businesses.
The Suids didn't start out to be restaurateurs. Ahmad previously made his living as a jewelry wholesaler. But he saw the family-friendly niche wasn't being served on St. Thomas, and he decided to do something about it.
"There are only a couple places you can go with kids," says Suid. "It's just one of those things. There are few family restaurants around."
There is a corner of the restaurant loaded with toys and video monitors, so you can watch your children from wherever you are in the restaurant.
Another secret to Kokopelli's success is the menu, which offers a fusion of Mediterranean cultures. "We have Greek, Italian, Spanish and Middle Eastern," says Suid. This is in homage to the many cultures that make up the Suid household. Ahmad is part Arabic and Columbian and speaks five languages; Carla grew up in the Southwest United States and is Jewish and American. That mix of cultures not only inspires the menu, but served to inspire the name of the restaurant as well.
"The Kokopelli is a humpback flute player," says Suid. "He's a mythical god of the Native American Indians. He was a prankster, a traveler, a god of fertility, good health and good food. He also resembles a 'rasta,' so we incorporated that logo."
Kokopelli can also serve your catering needs, and it's a great place for a birthday party, whether you're turning 6 or 60.
"Our gourmet pizza is the most popular thing," says Suid. When pressed for the secret recipe, he says, "We just use lots of love. Everything is fresh. There are no shortcuts."
Although the atmosphere is family-friendly, don't expect fast food. "It's middle- to high-end casual dining. We make dough and sauce every day. Where else can you get stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, and falafel? We have a big vegetarian menu."
Suid attributes his success to hard work and the desire to exceed expectations. "From day one our friends supported us and critiqued us, and we're open to that. I always say I'd rather be lucky than know what I'm doing. I've always been lucky."
Kokopelli Café is open seven days a week in Market Square from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Bakery Square location will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Look for it to open in January.


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