Chilliwack residents flock to support targeted restaurants

Published: March 8, 2013

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Sumit Gulati can finally feel at ease in the city he’s called home for the past three years.

Gulati, owner of Chilliwack’s The Bay Leaf Indian Buffet, spent most of last week afraid for his home and his family after he was attacked by an anonymous email filled with racial hatred suggesting his “people” should clear out because Chilliwack doesn’t “need folk from India and Surrey to pollute this city.”

His was one of three businesses to be targeted.

The email claimed it spoke “on behalf of citizens of Chilliwack.” Local residents have since proved it wrong.

Diners flowed in and out of Gulati’s restaurant on Vedder Street Friday to show their support in a cash mob organized by local residents Scott McVetty and Dale Johnson. (A cash mob is similar to a flash mob, but “without the singing and dancing” — it’s a “shop-local” initiative, but Friday’s was dual purposed to also show support of The Bay Leaf.)

“I really appreciate the Chilliwack people — they support me,” Gulati said, while taking a short break from his busy day. “I feel comfortable (now).”

Not only did Friday’s event put him at ease, but he’s been receiving phone calls, emails, letters and cards of support since the incident.

Chilliwack resident Marilyn Hornelle came in — to the restaurant she already eats at often — with the “whole family” to support the cash mob. Her granddaughter even helped serve.

Sumit (Lucky) Gulati and his wife Sonia were humbled by the Chilliwack community’s support after their business, the Bay Leaf Indian Buffet, was sent racial hate mail. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

“I feel sorry for the person who wrote (the letter),” Hornelle said as she finished her lunch. “(But) we’re not happy because that’s not the way people feel in Chilliwack . . . (there’s) no need for (that behaviour).”

Also sitting at Hornelle’s table was building owner Jagjit Toor who’s lived in Chilliwack for 32 years and owns several businesses across town.

“I love Chilliwack, the people are very good,” Toor said. “They’re behind us.”

Just a look around the bustling restaurant was telling enough.

“You can see it for yourself,” McVetty said, looking around the room. Johnson added:  “So far (Friday has been) above and beyond what we thought it would be.”

About a 10-minute drive away, Shandhar Hut on Young Road — the other restaurant victim to the racist attack — was just as busy and feeling the love.

“It’s been insane,” part-owner Paul Atti said. “It’s been one of those days that you won’t forget.”

His restaurant has been open for eight years, and Sunday’s hateful letter was the first he’d ever received.

“The Chilliwack community just responded beyond what we thought was going to happen,” he said. “There was a line-up all the way out the door for us … all the tables were packed — take-out was flying. It looked like a Friday night for us.”

The anonymous emailer sent messages apologizing to the businesses on Monday, but RCMP continue to investigate the case.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute




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