Patrons were beginning to complain.

“This place is like an oven,” they would say, and co-owner Daniel Bekele could only agree.

Six months after opening in early 2007, he couldn’t afford $2,000 for an air conditioner at his Ethiopian restaurant, Wazema, on Danforth Avenue.

The bar looked boxy, the decor lacked style and the washrooms needed upgrading, he says. But the food was good and he had a premonition that he was, as he says, “going to get something from somewhere.”

His feeling grew and that Father’s Day he rounded up three friends to drive to Casino Rama. Within minutes — on his second spin at a $50 slot machine — he won $190,000.

Bekele gave each friend $10,000 and put the balance toward Wazema, revamping it to be one of the city’s top Ethiopian restaurants.

The makeover not only drew new customers, but also attracted other Ethiopian businesses, to the point where Wazema now stands as a centrepiece of a Danforth strip people are beginning to call “Little Ethiopia.”

Since Wazema’s renovations, such eateries as Ibex, Fasiledes and Dukem have popped up, followed by a mix of other businesses.