by Carolyn Giordano
Familiar to the area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Garden: A Mediterranean Restaurant has found its new home in Scranton. Jo Marie Yamin Ali and her husband opened The Garden in March, after moving from West Pittston, where they were in business with The Garden since 2016. The business woman’s roots are in Scranton, but her childhood and some later years had her exploring other regions of the U.S.
Growing up around food, her grandmother had a tiny kitchen, but made bountiful meals for her family. The family spent countless hours over food and conversation, during the food prep and enjoying their labors.
Originally a hair stylist for about 20 years, Yamin Ali took some time off to care for her father and began cooking out of her house for people. She then opened her own pastry shop in 2007 and began supplying her pastries to a popular coffee shop in New York City. She worked in the bar business in the area, usually from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Yamin Ali then ventured into the food cart business and was one of the first people to have a food cart in Scranton. She brought New York-style chicken over rice to the area, and after eight years had a food cart, a food truck and a hot dog cart.
Yamin Ali always knew she wanted to have her own business. Many in her family were entrepreneurs, including her mother and father’s family specifically, who owned their own grocery stores. After getting married, she and her husband, who was in catering and had a butchering background, decided to open their own restaurant in West Pittston. Shortly after opening up, her husband who was working in New York at the time, quit his job because their restaurant was so busy. After being in West Pittston for around three years, they began looking for a space that suited their needs. They found their current location in downtown Scranton and set to work right away.
When first opening in West Pittston, the couple found the area hesitant to try this new cuisine, but the word soon spread and it caught on, with many of their loyal customers following them to their new Scranton location.
Yamin Ali and the team are excited about the possibilities that the new location holds. Currently, The Garden offers a casual dining experience with a modern feel. All of the Mediterranean recipes are family recipes with all of the menu items made in-house. Even their olive oil comes from a family orchard in Jerusalem. The restaurant menu includes lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, all accompanied by homemade desserts.
Yamin Ali says she strives for “a homey, comfortable feeling, while treating everybody the way we would want to be treated.”
The Garden also offers catering and hosts private parties. In the future, Yamin Ali plans to expand the catering aspect of the business, specifically doing more weddings, while also expanding her pastry offerings.
For women entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs in general, Yamin Ali advises, “have faith in yourself” and “don’t be afraid, and just do it.”
Even if you fail, that failure is the fuel to keep going, and eventually everything will click.
Carolyn Giordano has been writing for this column since she began internships with the Women Entrepreneurship Center several years ago. Carolyn graduated from The University of Scranton in May. All the best, Carolyn!