"I would have never seen this coming at all," Kay Naji said from behind the counter of the new store she runs with her two sisters on Topsail Road in St. John's.
"[My sisters] always used to try and convince me to move here, and I thought for sure that wasn't happening," she said.
"Now look at me."
The sisters' charcuterie company, Figs & Fromage, had its grand opening to the public Saturday, a far cry from Naji's life nine months ago. Back then, she was home in Brampton, Ont., wondering when her career would take off again: the former flight attendant had been laid off as the pandemic battered the airline industry.
Her long-awaited call to return to Air Canada never came, but she did receive more than a few calls from out east, where her two sisters, Eve Naji and Hajar Pittman, had settled in Newfoundland.
From flights to figs
Pittman had also been a flight attendant until she received her pink slip in March 2020.
Her aviation future up in the air, Pittman did what she would often do during her work trips to Dubai and Tel Aviv: she broke out the cheese board.
"[Hajar] and I used to go on layovers often," Kay Naji said. "And our favourite activity was to go to the grocery store, pick up some meat and cheese, meet up with the rest of the crew and have a little charcuterie."
Turning that cheese and meat into a career suited Pittman as she looked for work during the pandemic
"There weren't a lot of job options," she said.
Pittman has two young children at home, and entering the entrepreneurial world gave her extra flexibility.
"I was working out of my house and making my own hours and I didn't have to find child care," Pittman said. "It just seemed so convenient to work for yourself."
Coming onboard with the sisters' new venture was a no-brainer for Eve Naji. She was already in St. John's studying at Memorial University, and had just lost a job in customer service.
Building Figs & Fromage with her sisters, she said, hardly felt like a job.
"Doing this just made me look forward to going to work," she said.
Kay Naji agreed, saying the best part of the new business venture is getting to be with family every day.
"They're my best friends," she said. "It hasn't felt like work for the last nine months."
After 10 in years in flight, and five years based in Newfoundland, Pittman said their new business makes her feel more she feels more grounded in St. John's than ever.
"This last year has really made it feel like home."