Sajjad Shah

Indy Like a Local

Who is Sajjad?

Owner of MOTW Coffee & Pastries, with his wife, Fatimah. Find the original location in the International Marketplace on Indy’s west side (4873 W. 38th St.) and the newest in Fishers (8235 E. 116th St.) 

Q. What’s your background? Do you have experience in the restaurant industry? 

I am a CPA by training. My wife is a fitness trainer. We learned everything from scratch for this coffee shop.

Q. Why open a coffee shop? What makes MOTW different from other coffee shops in the city?

Our goal was to create a coffee shop with purpose. Yes, we want to serve great coffee and pastries, but we wanted to bring people of different faiths and backgrounds together to have meaningful conversations. We are located in the International Marketplace, which was also by design. We wanted every aspect of our coffee shop to have a story, from the artwork on the walls to the items we have on our menu. I think all coffee shops have some type of purpose, but we pride ourselves on being a coffee shop that is truly about bringing people together. 

Q.  Were you always interested in the International Marketplace area?

We knew that the International Marketplace lacked coffee shops. In the area we are in, there are practically none. However, the International Marketplace does something special by creating a unique customer base. It is perhaps the most ethnically diverse area in Indianapolis, and we felt that lined up with our mission of bringing different people together.

Q. Raising awareness of and educating folks on world events, as well as giving back, appear to be important principles for you (and the shop). Why is that?

Eight years ago, I started a nonprofit called Muslims of the World (MOTW). The idea was to change the way the world sees Muslims in a positive way. We focused on sharing regular day-to-day stories of Muslims on our Instagram page, @muslimsoftheworld, and before you knew it the stories went viral. We have accumulated over 650,000 followers on Instagram and have done a lot of philanthropy work. We loved the social media presence we had, but we felt that a physical component was needed. So we decided to build a coffee shop around the same concept that our popular Instagram page originated on. 

Q.  People seem to absolutely love your drinks and your pastries, which seem to go beyond the standard coffee-shop muffins and slices of banana bread. What was the inspiration behind such an elevated pastry menu?

We serve Arabic and French pastries, which are not easy to find in Indiana. Some may argue we are the only Arabic pastry shop in Indiana. With us being called MOTW, we wanted to focus on pastries that came from some of the most popular Muslim countries: Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, and Egypt. A lot of the pastries you will find at our shop you can find in the Middle East—that was the inspiration for the pastries we choose.

Q.  What’s your go-to drink and food item at the shop? 

The go-to drink is definitely our famous Yemeni chai that pairs perfectly with our Yemeni Honey Comb: a Yemeni bread stuffed with cream cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and drizzled in honey. 

Q.  What other coffee shops around Indy do you admire?

My wife and I really like Amberson Coffee. Hugo, the owner, is a really nice guy and it’s also one of the only other minority-owned coffee shops in Indiana.

Q.  What do you recommend visitors see and do while in Indy?

Just come to the MOTW coffee shop...I kid, I kid. I really love the Indianapolis Zoo. We have traveled the world and I can say our zoo is one of the best.

Q.  What are some of your other favorites around the city?

There is a Pakistani restaurant in Fishers called Bombay Bazaar and their food is straight fire!