By Dwain Wellington Rattray
Pride Contributing Editor
The summer of 2012 saw Sharon Cleghorn step out of her role as an accounting professional, to shoulder the responsibility of running Island Sunset Restaurant and Lounge, which her father opened in the summer of 2010.
Sitting across from Sharon in the spacious dining room – at the corner of Sheppard East and Morningside Avenues – the zeal in her eyes is evident as she speaks about delving into her business.
Initially meant as a temporary move to revamp the restaurant, Sharon soon realized that going back to corporate Canada was more difficult than she anticipated. After three months of hard work, Sharon says that with the restaurant back on its feet (after mismanagement by a third party), her customers were reluctant to see her go, and she had found a new passion.
Walking away from her career of a dozen years, she became an entrepreneur.
“You become the restaurant; it’s life now,” she says. As a business owner coming from a somewhat rigid corporate structure, Sharon says it took a while to get accustomed to the adjustment.
Though she often worked from home with international clients, Cleghorn notes that with the restaurant, “You start when your eyes open and you don’t really end – even when your eyes close.”
In a competitive business, Sharon is always, “dreaming of new things” to offer her customers. A large part of her success and the success of Island Sunset is directly related to Sharon’s friendly personality and customer focused attitude.
But what truly sets Cleghorn and the restaurant apart, is her marketing savvy.
Island Sunset has been careful to prepare meals in such a way that it is pleasantly delicious to both Caribbean and Canadian customers, while being decidedly authentic. The taste of the pudding is in the eating.
As this writer finished the interview, I left with a large Ox-Tail (and free soup with my large purchase), plus a full leg-quarter Jerk Dinner complete with coleslaw (the Jerk was only $5.00).
Speaking of inexpensive meals – Jammin’ Jerk Tuesdays features the same full leg-quarter Jerk Dinner, complete with coleslaw, for $3.50.
Among Sharon’s marketing initiatives is her pre-seasoned chicken for the barbeque season. The restaurant cleans and seasons fresh chicken, ready for cooking – all the customer has to do is purchase, and drop on the grill. Salads and sides are also available for an instant barbeque!
It is to be noted that the facility is also a lounge with full bar. Subsequently, it is open late on the weekend, with a hopping party atmosphere – complete with “oldies” on Sundays.
This Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, Island Sunset will host its second Mother’s Day Buffet Brunch. Guests are advised to make a reservation and arrive on time – last year, with the high demand for seating, some clients could not be accommodated.
Both sittings are complete with white table cloth etc. to create a fine dining experience and celebration of mothers.
The meal includes a 15 choice menu, including sumptuous dessert; complemented with entertainment and giveaways. Brunch is at 12:30 and 4:00pm; Adults are $28.00 and children 4-12 are $15.00.
Whatever is next for Sharon (maybe a location in the West End) we are confident that if the same formula of hard work and customer focus is applied, it too will be a resounding success.
Island Sunset Restaurant and Lounge, which offers free Wi-Fi service, is located at 1139 Morningside Avenue, in Toronto’s east end, just south of Sheppard Avenue. You may telephone them at: (416) 284-4888.
Photo by Dwain Wellington Rattray.