After 29 years of spicing up Guelph’s meals panorama, Bombay Cafe is closing for good

‘We are retiring, thank you Guelph for 29 years of your support and memories,’ says Karam Singh, owner of Bombay Cafe

One of Guelph’s oldest ethnic restaurants is closing its doors.

The Bombay Cafe on Municipal Street is closing its doors after 29 years in business. Their last day is March 31 and on April 1 new ownership will take over.

The new owner will be renovating the spot and opening a new restaurant with a different name and menu.

Owner Karam Singh is 72 years old and decided it was time for him and his wife Kuldip to retire when she turned 65.

“Everybody feels like a family when they come here,” said Singh. “We told our clientele and they are so sad.”

Singh opened the restaurant after winning the lottery. He shared a secondary prize of $1 million with 18 other winners that day. His share was $52,000.

This was a huge deal for Singh since was unemployed after being laid off in 1991 from a car parts manufacturing plant.

“If I didn’t win the lottery then maybe I can’t open,” he said.

He used his winnings to buy the restaurant from the owner of what was then Vijay’s restaurant.

Bombay Cafe opened July 30, 1993. It was the only authentic Indian restaurant in Guelph at the time and strictly offered Indian dishes, he said. 

He chose to name the restaurant after Bombay because people know Bombay belongs to India.

Singh is from Punjab, in northern India, where he says the regions cuisine is the most popular around the world. He came to Canada in 1973 after finishing his masters degree in history.

“My cousin had a restaurant back home and sometimes I go there and help him and I got the idea from him.”

Another friend of Singh’s owned a restaurant in New Jersey and he came to help open Bombay Cafe. “I was scared because I’ve never done this business,” said Singh.

Butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, and aloo gobi are some of the most popular dishes Singh thinks customers will miss the most.

“Life is short. Now we have to enjoy it and travel back home, see our family,” he said. “Money is not everything. We are totally satisfied. My house is paid off and we can enjoy.”

In retirement Singh will be gardening and spending time with family. Singh said it is important for him and his wife to spend time with his young grandchildren in their formative years. They are five months, 19 months and nine years old.

As a family business, Singh’s sons helped out by picking up groceries for the restaurant. In 2012, Singh went to India and when he was there his sons surprised him by renovating the restaurant using the money for emergencies he left them.

Singh said they lost about 35 per cent of business during the pandemic. They were able to keep afloat through takeout and government assistance. A lot of the clientele are retired people and had fear going to the restaurant during the pandemic.

Singh’s message to Guelph? “We are retiring, thank you Guelph for 29 years of your support and memories.”

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