Local businesswoman Jocelyn Maroun is no longer affiliated with the restaurant that still bears her name, and has opened up a new restaurant with her new partner Kelvin Severino. It is called SeVmar Mediterranean Bistro, located at 401 Main St. in Salem, NH.
Several of our readers emailed and called us over the last few weeks to tell us about Jocelyn’s new restaurant and urged us to do a story on her come back.
Pulling into the parking lot (plenty of parking!) at SeVmar we knew we were in the right place when we saw a fire-engine-red colored phone booth outside the restaurant entrance.
Once inside the door you immediately notice a spacious bar in front with very romantic lighting and furniture designs. Comfortable, padded seats and benches that are far enough away from each other for an intimate conversation.
Within minutes we were greeted by Jocelyn and sat down to talk about her new project.
“So, you used to be “Jocelyn’s,”. I don’t know if you want to talk about that at all, but…”
“No, I will talk about whatever you want,”
QUESTION: “It must be tough having the restaurant still bearing your name while you are now running SeVmar.”
JOCELYN: I try to be classy about it. My ex-husband kept Jocelyn’s restaurant and I have nothing to do with it anymore. It is what it is, I’ve moved on, and I’m at SeVmar now with my partner Kelvin Severino.”
QUESTION: How did you come up with the name SeVmar?
“My last name is Maroun. My partner’s last name is Severino. So SeVmar is half of his last name and half of mine. We thought it had a flare to it with the V in the middle. Kelvin had hired me temporarily at his company after I wasn’t at Jocelyn’s anymore. After some time, I realized there wasn’t an opportunity for me to go back to it. It’s a long, complicated story, but Kelvin and I ended up partnering up in the restaurant business and it’s been a great opportunity.”
“The first night we were open, it was so nice. All my regular customers were here. We opened and they just started showing up. Night after night, it is all familiar faces.”
Q: How did they find you?
“I didn’t put it out there, really. I made one post on social media and it just spread by word of mouth. The community started chatting it up about it on their own and sharing the information. It’s been a blessing. It’s been beautiful, overwhelming, and heartwarming. The people of this community have always been so good to me and my family.”
“My father is back with me again here. It’s been overwhelming support. I am so grateful.”
Q: When did you open?
“This is our fourth week now. We opened on the 16th (of February) and we haven’t been able to keep up with the volume. I mean, it’s only eleven tables. I thought with the space it wasn’t going to be too hard to handle, but it’s turned into a big operation so, we are looking to expand.”
Q: What do you think is the reason for the instant success of SeVmar?
“I think it’s the personal touch.”
“You know my dad started Jocelyn’s, so it’s literally the same menu. My father started Salem Kabob’s in 2002 and we made this menu back then. So, now all three menus, SeVmar, Salem Kabob, and Jocelyn’s all came from us- it’s a similar menu. It’s not like we can change our family recipes.”
Q Did you ever think about trying a new menu, something different?
“Well, the first week we opened we advertised that we had a new chef. People were coming in saying it tasted different. Not that it was bad, just different. So, we did try something different at first, and I gave her the freedom to cook what she wanted because I respect her as a chef, but the customers kept asking for my family recipe. They wanted what we always gave them. So, I realized quickly that people were coming here because they wanted what they were used to having. My intention wasn’t to stick to the same menu, but that’s what the customers are asking for and that’s what they really want.”
“My dad is back and the customers are happy. So, if anyone came in the first week and it wasn’t what they expected, that has been changed, we’d love to have you back.”
Q: We heard about you being at SeVmar after we did a restaurant review on Lebanese food. We got emails from our readers – and a couple of advertisers – telling us you were back. Why do you think you have such a great reputation, is it really the food or is it something else too?
“I have not done any advertising at all and look at the crowd here on a Thursday afternoon. Remember, I was at the other restaurant for 14 years and a lot of these people have become my friends. Some of them remember when I was pregnant with my daughter. The restaurant was my life, the customers became my family, my friends, and I was very intimate with them in the sense that we got to know each other’s families, it was very personal.”
“On a Friday and Saturday, you look at the camera and all you can see is the line of people at the door and sometimes people walk out because they don’t want to wait. We can’t take reservations online because we only have 11 tables right now. We would be setting ourselves up for failure. So, until we expand, guests have to call us the old-fashioned way.
Q: We’ve always known the Maroun family in the Merrimack Valley I’m sure that made things easier when you left the other restaurant.
“I’ve been very fortunate since I left the other restaurant, doors have opened for me. At first, I thought ‘what am I going to do, this is all I know?’ But, I’ve been blessed to have such a great family, and then I met a great business partner with Kelvin.”
“We now have this small bistro in Salem, N.H., it’s the same bistro I grew up in at Salem Kabob working behind the counter as a child. Now, we’ve re-bought it back from my family as the next generation and modernized it. We have a bar now which is great. We are looking to expand to accommodate the volume. My daughter is here, my father is here, it’s a happy place, and I’m happy again. It’s all about good service, good food, good energy, and that’s what the customers want.
Q: Is it harder or easier now that you’re not married to your business partner in a restaurant? I would imagine it’s quite the adjustment.
“Well, here, I have some more freedom and creativity. If I want to change something or add something, I have the freedom to do that. Kelvin is very supportive, so, there’s a lot more flexibility. He owns a national demolition company (ADEP Group), so he brings a lot of value to our team in terms of running a business the right way, staying organized, and thinking outside of the box. He took me under his wing and has been a huge blessing. So, it’s not what I’m used to, you are right it’s an adjustment but it’s a good adjustment.
Q: Are you having a hard time finding people to work?
“I had very low turnover at the other place and my same team stuck with me for years. They were so loyal.”
“When we opened here most of them reached out, but I could only hire a few of them. So no I haven’t had any problem finding people to work. I wish I could have hired more of my old staff.”
“We will see how it goes after we expand. Management and most of my staff now are all people who used to be with me before. They know what I expect, customers are familiar with them, and we work very well together. A whole family.”
Q: How would you describe this place to someone who has never been to the other place, doesn’t know the history, and just wants a great place to have dinner?
“We’ve designed this place with the community in mind. We have four values that we are focusing on; excellence, intimacy, virtue, and boldness.”
“Boldness in the sense that we can be funky. We are sometimes going to think outside the box. We’ve got some funky chairs, funky designs, funky drinks.”
“As far as intimacy, it’s an intimate place where you can come with your friends, with your mother, or your co-worker. We want people to feel like it’s intimate and not rushed.”
“Excellence in service, excellence in food. And virtue is just doing the right things. Providing a positive atmosphere and energy so everyone who comes here enjoys the environment and the food and want to come back.”
SeVmar is open Mon 4–8pm,
Tues– Wed 11am–8pm,
Closed Sundays. Sunday Brunch will be kicking off this spring.
Take out (603) 870-0018 ◊