FUQUAY-VARINA — Local residents hungry for healthier restaurant fare will likely find what they’re looking for at Sweet Leaf Cafe.
Owner Jila Amiri does all the cooking: “Everything is fresh. Nothing canned or bagged.”
Mo Amiri said he and his wife want to fill a community need.
“We promised ourselves we would provide healthy food to people and let them come here and enjoy life,” he said. “Most work long hours and are tired. They need somewhere to relax after 5. We made it comfortable for them to do that.”
In addition to specialty coffees and tea, the menu features salads and made-to-order wraps with a touch of Mediterranean and European flair.
Sweets range from French roulettes to baklava. A frozen yogurt bar beckons from a corner.
The cafe is the culmination of a dream for Jila. A cancer survivor, she says her battle with the illness changed her outlook.
“I promised myself that someday I must do something for everybody,” Jila said. “My wish for the cafe is for it to be relaxing and a feeling of home for everybody.”
Indeed, Jila greets customers, often by name, as they enter. After a month in business, Sweet Leaf Cafe already has a regular customer base.
“Leaf means life to me. The sweet life,” she said. “I think positive every day. Every day I live for that day. I don’t think about what’s behind.”
The couple hires college students to staff the counter.
“When I was in college, nobody would give me a job,” said Jila, who studied at the University of Tehran in her native Iran. “It is important to me to help them.”
Mo agrees. “We treat them as if they were our own children.”
Jila came to the United States by way of Sweden. Cafe patrons may notice her European travels reflected in the decorations.
Mo, also a native Iranian, has been in the U.S. for 35 years. A graduate of Louisiana Tech, he spent his career working for Time Warner Cable.
When he was laid off after 26 years, the couple decided the time was right to start their own business.
The Amiris say the community support has been invaluable.
“(Fuquay-Varina) Mayor John Byrne gave us guidance on how to grow the business,” Mo said. “He is a wonderful man and very supportive of small business.”
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony June 21, Byrne and Tommy Broadwell, executive director of the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce, were on hand to celebrate.
“Sweet Leaf has become home for us,” Mo said. “We are here from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. We have wonderful customers, and I appreciate them.”
Soon, Jila will travel to Sweden for the birth of their second grandchild. Mo will stay behind to run Sweet Leaf Cafe.
“For us, it is family first, business second,” Mo said.