The people who know Tanya Hill-Shareef best – her husband and her brother – have seen her coax the words “yes” and “absolutely” out of people who initially told her “no” and “never.” Yet when she came home and announced that she was going to open a restaurant at 2014 Del Paso Blvd., both men told her, “Oh, no, you can’t!”
For many years, Hill-Shareef and her brother André Perry ran the successful 1910 Boutique in the historic midtown Sacramento building now occupied by Pour House. Perry and Hill-Shareef’s husband, Omar Shareef, told her that, if she was going to open another business, it should be in midtown. On The Grid, they said, she would find a more affluent clientele than she would in North Sacramento.
“They made me cry,” Hill-Shareef said, “but I told them, ‘You guys don’t see it, but I see it. We’re going to open up in the ’hood, in our community. We’re going to do something a little different.’”
Her restaurant, Off the Hook, opened last May, despite the naysayers. And there’s a pattern here.
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Hill-Shareef is the woman who called up the landlords of The Landmark office building, at 1750 Howe Ave., and told them she had designed a coffee kiosk that would fit right into their lobby. They didn’t agree – on the first phone call or the second or the third. Eventually, though, her relentlessness paid off. In 1989, she signed a lease and for the next 11 years she and Perry served coffee, pastries and more to the Landmark’s roughly 2,000 employees.
About seven years into that business, Hill-Shareef said, she learned that one of her nieces had a child taken from her care by child protective services in New Jersey. Hill-Shareef told me she had been present the day the baby girl was born and had suggested the name, Tasia. She wanted that little girl, but a social worker told her not to even bother booking a plane trip because she would never get custody. A family already had been cleared to adopt her.
In tears, the determined mom-to-be called an uncle who was a judge, who encouraged her to proceed.
That was about 19 years ago. This past summer, Tasia Shareef was home on break from Tuskegee University, where she’s a sophomore this year. She kept the opening of Off the Hook on course while Hill-Shareef had hip replacement surgery.
Mother and daughter also survived a devastating car accident in 1999. Tasia Shareef walked away with only a small “owie,” but doctors told Hill-Shareef that she probably would never walk again. She sold her coffee kiosk, but she refused to accept the doctors’ warning. Months later, still in a wheelchair, she bought a Cadillac Escalade to give her incentive to walk – and drive – again.
One day, a preschool-aged Tasia walked into Hill-Shareef’s bedroom and said, ‘Mommy, I want you to take me to school.’ Hill-Shareef told her that sounded like a wonderful idea, so she got dressed, hobbled to the Escalade and drove her daughter to school.
“When I went to pick her up that day, her whole school had made me a card,” Hill-Shareef said. “Every child in the preschool was standing outside, and she was so proud, she was jumping up and down and saying, ‘Yes, Mommy, yes!”
And “Yes” is what Perry and his brother-in-law, an electrical contractor, ended up saying to Hill-Shareef. They helped her renovate and decorate the new restaurant space. Perry is now the chef, serving up deep-fried, cornmeal-coated shrimp and catfish popular along the Gulf Coast and the fried whiting and crabcakes from the East Coast.
Her can-do attitude seems to be paying off. On Yelp, diners describe Off the Hook as a little neighborhood gem with an upscale feel.
Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.