A man’s decision to leave Pakistan more than 60 years ago and settle in Carmel is at the heart of a new coffee shop on Old Meridian Street.
Hafize Shah, who passed away in 2021, taught math at Carmel High School, and his children, including his daughter, Samina, graduated from the school. His grandson, Sajjad Shah (son of Samina) said Hafize Shah came to Carmel at a time when it was less diverse, breaking cultural barriers and bringing people together.
That’s exactly what owners Sajjad Shah and his wife, Fatimah, hope to continue to do, having opened their fourth Indianapolis area location of MOTW (Muslims of the World) Coffee and Pastries. Their newest shop opened April 30 at 12761 Old Meridian St. in Carmel.
“His students absolutely loved him, and when they figured out that I was the grandson of the famous Mr. Shah at Carmel High School, we were sent hundreds of messages from Carmel residents that had my grandfather as a math teacher in the early ’80s,” Sajjad Shah said. “So Carmel had a lot of sentimental value, and therefore we wanted to eventually open a shop there.”
MOTW began as an Instagram page designed as an outlet for Muslims to share their stories. The page amassed more than 700,000 followers from a variety of backgrounds and faiths, Shah said. From there, Sajjad and Fatimah Shah opened their first coffee shop at 38th Street and Lafayette Road in Indianapolis, 2-1/2 years ago. MOTW also has locations in Castleton and Fishers.
Sajjad Shah said MOTW prides itself on being welcoming and connecting to its customers and obsesses over customer service. Their shops offer drinks with unique flavors, including homemade syrups, and a variety of pastries, many with a cultural spin.
“Our Arabic pastries are to die for,” Shah said. “They are light on the stomach but absolutely delicious.”
MOTW also emphasizes aesthetics. Sajjad and Fatimah Shah, who live in Fishers, rented the Old Meridian Street location from family friend Bruce Pallman. Preparing the shop took about 2-1/2 months. It features high ceilings and a wealth of natural lighting, with real trees indoors, light colors and murals, including a wall-high painting of an Ethiopian farmer pouring coffee, by Venice, Calif.-based artist Jules Muck.
“We want our customers to come into our shop with their problems, find peace within our shops and leave feeling lighter and optimistic,” Shah said.
The MOTW shops have proven to be popular with a diverse customer base, as the Shahs had intended.
“The truth is, there is no secret sauce,” Sajjad Shah said. “If you are nice, sincere and genuine with people – people actually like that.”
MOTW’s customer base is reflective of the changing demographics of the Indianapolis area.
“We wanted to share our culture with people, change stereotypes that many may have, all while serving the best coffee and pastries that people may have ever had,” Shah said. “The truth of the matter is that Indiana is becoming a cultural melting pot, lots of different groups of people. The more we get to understand one another the better the world will be. That is our hope at MOTW Coffee and Pastries.”