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‘The shop was our livelihood: Owners of Tata Hot Sauce Emporium searching for answers after water main break closes restaurant in East York

Tata Hot Sauce Emporium has a GoFundMe page for those who want to support it.

‘The shop was our livelihood: Owners of Tata Hot Sauce Emporium searching for answers after water main break closes restaurant in East York
Odaine Davidson and his mother, Sharna, are the owners of Tata Hot Sauce Emporium in East York. The business owners are in limbo after a water main break forced their shop to close on Friday, June 2, 2023. TATA HOT SAUCE EMPORIUM PHOTO

What was supposed to be a typical day became a nightmare for Odaine Davidson.

The owner of Tata Hot Sauce Emporium arrived at his restaurant in East York at 219 Rexleigh Dr. on Friday, June 2, at 5 a.m. to start the day’s prep before golfing with a friend close by. After finishing the morning prep, he headed for the Dentonia Park Golf Course in Scarborough to play golf with a friend.

Davidson said that around the 13th or 14th hole, he received a call from his landlord, which he missed. He called back; nothing. Then, minutes later, Davidson got the news from his mother that something was happening at the restaurant. When he arrived, yellow police tape cordoned off the area, and his jaw dropped. A water main broke, and his restaurant and several other shops in the building had been flooded.

“My mother was there, and when I saw her, she looked like she had seen a ghost,” Davidson told Black Dollar Magazine. “I went inside, to the back, and then went downstairs, and then I couldn’t even go down the second step. The water was up to the step. So, I mean, it was just a total shock at that moment. I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. It was just a shock; it stayed like that for a month or two after that too. Never in your right mind would you ever script or think you’d come to your place of work and see that it’s underwater.”

Davidson and his mother, Sharna, ran a successful Jamaican restaurant for seven years before the incident. August 24, 2023, would’ve been its anniversary. Instead, they are looking for answers on when the building will be fixed to see if they'll have an eighth. Davidson said the foundation is comprised and added that he doesn’t know whether his shop will be demolished or saved.

“What hurts and will be challenging is starting from scratch. I’ve been able to do some great work. I’ve done a lot of community work within the space I was in, you know, so it would hurt to be unable to be back in that space. We’re doing our best to sustain positivity, hoping something can be worked out. It was nothing under our control, but we’re doing our best to overcome this,” Davidson said.

He credited the East York neighborhood for supporting the business over the years, including George Brown College. Davidson said as of today, the business is at a standstill, and he worries that the momentum will fade due to the incident. Thankfully, the company has insurance, but payments have been slow to arrive thus far. He’s only received two months of lost wages after six months out of business. Davidson added that he’s working with the landlord and the city to find an adequate solution for re-entry before it's too late.

“We knew we were doing very well and getting consistent business. I had catering gigs lined up for a major corporation, and that would’ve been a $2,000 gig right there,” Davidson said. “I had two other private catering events, and that coming week would’ve probably been one of the best financial weeks of our business, to be honest.”

When asked if he and his mother, Sharna, had considered moving to another location, Davidson said he has an appointment with a landlord for a new spot on Saturday (Nov. 11) but is focused primarily on building his presence online. The restaurant space was where all production gets done, and with the shop, inventory has stayed the same. Davidson said they looked at doing a pop-up shop but have yet to be successful in finding a suitable location.

He added that he’s hoping his shop will reopen in the summer, but he’s not sure what will happen. The state of the building's foundation could mean demolishing the entire structure, which could extend the timeline for re-entry.

“The shop was our livelihood. I haven’t gotten another job or anything as of yet, but that might be the case soon. That’s the reality of the situation,” Davidson said.

Tata Hot Sauce Emporium has a GoFundMe page for those who want to support it. Visit the page here.