Sub Garden has played a huge role in Tina’s life. It was her very first job and she enjoyed it so much that she has now been with the business for over 20 years, having owned it for the last 11. Progressing from an employee to now an owner, Tina truly enjoys her work at Sub Garden, insisting that it is her customers that keep her coming back every morning smiling. She is involved in every aspect from operating the business to serving to dealing with customers. The latter of which she says is the best part of her job. Some of her customers having been coming back for the last 15 years, from when they were school children to now adults.
She fell into the business without planning, a fact for which she is now grateful for. Tina’s sister used to work for the previous owner of Sub Garden and when they were looking to open up a sandwich shop, her sister suggested she come to meet the manager and he hired her on the spot. Her personable quality shone through then as it does today.
In Trinidad, where Tina is from, social gatherings for women are a common occurrence and groups of women would often take cooking classes as a bonding experience. Reflecting back on it years later, she says it was what sparked her interest in cooking and wanting to become involved with Sub Garden. Taking care of her family prior to working, Tina also cooked regularly for her relatives and learned to make healthy and satisfying meals, but also ones that were time efficient. She says this is what drew her to Sub Garden; the ease of preparation of the food meant that she had more time to engage in conversation with her customers!
The popularity of Sub Garden and the success they have achieved here in Newton means that the business would have a large following if they opened another location. However, Tina states that she likes actively engaging her customers and opening up more locations would take away this aspect. The food industry can be grueling work, especially with the long hours, so it is very admirable that Tina makes an active attempt to be present for every part of her business. Operating the restaurant has become a part of her routine and she insists that she would not have it any other way. It has become a “piece of cake” for her now.
The homemade quality of the restaurant is translated in everything from the ingredients to the atmosphere and of course Tina’s personality. All their ingredients are bought from local suppliers and vendors and they really steer away from buying in bulk because their restaurant is founded on the idea of quality food. All the food is usually bought every two days to ensure freshness. Being as busy as she is does not stop Tina from cooking and preparing most of the food herself, such as the soups and lasagna. Their menu is simple but satisfying, including sandwiches, wraps, rice bowls and various hot side dishes. The recipes and majority of the menu have not changed in the last 22 years because they have been so popular with her customers. She has however added some of her hometown Trinidadian flavour with the Cajun and jerk chicken options. The quality and make of the food gives it a feeling of being homemade which is what keeps bringing customers back.
Tina plans to retire in a few years to spend time with her grandchildren and travel back to Trinidad. She hopes that the next person to take over her business is as interested in it as she is.
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