Back in 2006, with war in Lebanon raging, Yassmine Nassereddine and her husband Ahmad Cheaito fled for refuge. Ahmed came to Canada first, to Kingston, and found work painting homes. Yassmine joined him later, working at a spa. Today, she owns and operates Sabaya Spa, while Ahmed is the owner of the two Thai Express restaurants in the city as well as the Orange Julius and Cultures restaurants in the Cataraqui Centre. When Ahmed said he also wanted to open a permanent BeaverTails pastry store in downtown Kingston, Yassmine thought he was joking. “He said, ‘An opportunity only comes one time in life!” says Yassmine, laughing. Although the couple has a lot on their plate, they say they couldn’t be happier.
Why do you choose to live in Kingston?
Ahmad: What I like here is the safety. This is what we sometimes lack back home (in Lebanon). We’ve had opportunities now to go to Toronto with the food industry and we said, “No, we’re not going to go.” We like it here. It’s a small big city.
Yassmine: It’s nice for kids, you know – to raise kids, to get to know the community.
What neighbourhood do you live in and why?
Ahmad: We live in (Waterloo Village). We rented the basement for five years (before buying the home).
Yassmine: We’re very sociable. We always have people over, so we needed a little bigger living room.
What is your favourite summer activity in Kingston?
Ahmad: The Lake. Lately it’s been the [Gord Edgar Downie] Pier. We go a lot to Lake Ontario Park. Just sitting there watching the view is phenomenal.
Yassmine: We try to go to the park all the time. We try to benefit as much as we can from the summer.
What is Kingston’s best-kept secret?
Ahmad: It’s the people. I think the people are really friendly, there’s tons of activities to do here. The city is beautiful. This is what makes you feel like you are home.
Yassmine: When we go to Lebanon, after two weeks, we want to go home.