Nuances in business

Nuances in business

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Contributors: Mina Atia, Communications Coordinator | Published: March 4, 2021

The overused sayings of “unprecedented times” and “new normal” have been losing their impact. When it comes to the resilience and perseverance of our local business community, however, that impact is still making waves.

Last year was packed with surprises, low blows and unforeseen challenges. Yet, many entrepreneurs have defied those odds by opening a new business during a pandemic, pushing for success, fighting for more chances or inadvertently closing doors on a high note with an outpouring of support.

Business Voice interviewed four of the many cream-of-the-crop establishments, who represent the current nuances of doing business.

James Ingram - Jive Photographic Productions

NovaScotian Crystal hand-making a treasured exit

Starting over two generations ago with a group of master craftsmen committed to preserving this ancient and vanishing craft, NovaScotian Crystal has become a truly Canadian story. It’s a valuable one about respect for tradition, beauty and fine craftsmanship.

Every piece created bears the mark of its maker. Its uniqueness is manifested every step of the way from the original design inception, to the mouth blown shape, to the hand-cut pattern.

“Our mission has been to create a brand of Canadian crystal and a story of passion and excellence,” says company owner Anne Campbell.

The NS Crystal brand embodies respect for the craft, its customers and team members. Using traditional tools and techniques of European crystal makers, the company’s versatile team has worked with grace under pressure since 1996.

“We honour tradition as we create each piece of crystal,” says Campbell. “Gratitude has a strong presence in our workday, and we are grateful, particularly our craftsmen, to have an outlet for our creativity.

NS Crystal has been embraced tremendously and thoroughly supported by many communities in Nova Scotia, Canada and the world. “We are thankful to our many loyal customers and corporate partners, here and around the world, for the tremendous outpouring of support we have received,” says Campbell.

Recently announcing the company’s permanent closure at the end of February has catapulted the number of requests and orders made by customers. They received so many, in fact, NS Crystal had to suspend taking further orders.

“We have absolutely loved being able to create Canada’s only mouth blown, hand-cut crystal and we feel incredibly privileged to have been able to do this for and with those who share our love of this art and craft,” says Campbell.

NS Crystal fostered its own tight-knit community, consisting of hard-working team members and endlessly loyal customers and partners. The team relentlessly continued putting their talent and care into the work to the very last day. Meanwhile, the customers have been lucky to secure one last NS Crystal piece.

“We couldn’t have come this far without the many customers and partner organizations that have supported us along the journey,” says Campbell. “To all we say thank you.”

Update: NovaScotian Crystal is in talks with a potential buyer who may keep the business open (unconfirmed).

Peter Calder - Calder Media

Saké keeping the Teppanyaki flame burning

As CEO of Comvest, a real estate firm operating various restaurants throughout Halifax, Zoey Boosey spent a great deal of time and effort turning Sea Smoke Restaurant and Bar on the waterfront around and building its team. Upon being informed that the restaurant was up for sale, she decided to purchase it and not see all her time and effort go to waste.

Always wanting to own a fleet of restaurants, Boosey considered Sea Smoke to be her perfect building block for the next step: Saké Restaurant & Bar. Since her favourite cuisine is Asian, she saw it as the opportunity to offer Halifax a different and unique experience she felt the city was missing.

“We aimed for an intimate and cool vibe paired with a cherry blossom tree to give a great Asian feel to the restaurant,” says Boosey. “I had always had a vision of offering something to the people of Halifax which it hasn’t had before.”

Boasting an authentic feel, a world-class mixology and an unmatched experience, Saké celebrates Asian cuisine by embracing only the finest ingredients, experts and traditional techniques when creating its uniquely rooted yet modern dishes.

“We offer an experience to our guests like never before rather than the usual in dining of other restaurants,” says Boosey. “Unfortunately we were only open for a month before the second shutdown came and we had to close our doors for another period.”

Saké’s opening during a pandemic remains to be very challenging, in particular for a new business owner. “There is no help out there at the moment for new businesses,” says Boosey. “Help was offered to those open before the pandemic but unfortunately not much support to those who were new.”

“However, the good news came at the start of January when we were able to reopen.”

Saké’s unique experience revolves around several offerings such as Teppanyaki, Hot Pot and À la Carte dining. Recently launching a new and well-received Teppanyaki brunch on weekends, the team has the confidence to push for other exciting offerings.

“People are of course very cautious about coming back out with the different variants of COVID-19 at the moment,” says Boosey. “But we have a 7,300 square foot restaurant, which is great for social distancing, and are very strict when it comes to our safety protocols.”

Business for Saké is growing steadily since people have started to feel confident again in stepping outside and supporting local business. “And we would love for everyone to come and enjoy the experience we have created,” says Boosey.

“Whether you are looking for the flames of the Teppanyaki, a cocktail like never before or to try one of our homemade and exquisite desserts, we hope to see you soon.”

Lumi Studios Media And Production

The Highlander Spa goes against the grain

Feel good and look sharp is not just a slogan for The Highlander Spa & Lounge – it’s a mantra that allowed this masculine-friendly establishment to get started when weathering the unknown brought on by the pandemic.

It’s been more than seven years in the making for owner Bruce Herron and his vision for this spa to come to life.

“My daughters just kept saying it's a great idea. Why don't you just do it; why don't you take the leap of faith,” he says.

And he did. In late 2019, Herron started to build on South Park Street, got some staff in, tested out the process and the design, and decided to finally actualize his dream by debuting the spa on opening day of August 17, 2020.

“Overall it's been scary but very satisfying,” he says. “And ultimately I don't regret it because I'm in it for the long haul.”

“The best part of it is people's reaction when they come into the space and connect with it.”

Designed with rich-blue walls, wooden finishes and a fully-stocked cozy bar in a ceiling-high glass windowed space, the spa hosts a number of large pedicure chairs comfortable for any body size.

“It's just simply born from a place that I would feel comfortable in as a man when going to a traditional spa, getting services done and taking care of myself,” he says.

With knowledgeable professionals on staff and an exclusive selection of products, The Highlander Spa & Lounge caters to the dignified relaxation of customers seeking a masculine atmosphere. Women are also more than welcome to enjoy the many treatments and services available.

“We have a large feminine clientele,” says Herron. “Everybody's welcome.”

His daughter is now co-managing the spa since they’ve been operating six days a week, and they recently started opening on Sundays. Herron is hopeful that travellers and business professionals will soon start staying at the Convention Centre, which is a short walk up to the spa. He believes it will probably be a large lift for the business.

“Once we’re a bit more established, I'd like to certainly take the design and what I learned from going through it and expand out to West Bedford,” says Herron.

“As challenging as it has been, it's truly been a great experience!”


Chanoey’s Pasta creating its starch mark

Small business owners, Catherine Paulino and Carl Mangali saw limited options for fine food in the take-out choices available to them. They decided to fill what they think was a gap by specializing in pasta.

“We built Chanoey's Pasta because we want to operate a small business and cater to the needs of the downtown Dartmouth community,” says the husband and wife duo.

Serving other non-pasta options like salads, sandwiches, soup and breakfast, Chanoey’s creates something different for everyone’s taste. “We are introducing foods from different parts of the world especially our place of origin, the Philippines.”

The restaurant’s namesake is a word play on names, Chandler and Joey, of two of the main characters of famous tv show ‘Friends’. “We liked them so much we named our small business after them; plus it’s unique and catchy,” they said.

“My husband and I have been in the food business for a long time now, but opening our own restaurant and being in charge of all the aspects of it in the middle of the pandemic has been a roller coaster ride,” says Catherine.

Despite finding it challenging at times, the duo tries to take as many advantages of the pandemic as they can. “It caused us a lot of stress and uncertainties, but on top of that we also took it as a challenge because if we can survive a year in the pandemic, we can survive anything after this.”

Confessing this drive is what kept them going against all odds, they give special thanks to their landlord for helping out especially when they first started. “Because of him, we continue forward with our restaurant.”

Carl and Catherine purposely designed Chanoey’s Pasta for takeout without even thinking about the impact of the pandemic on foot traffic. “We think we hit the 'sweet spot' at that point,” they say.

“It’s been almost a year now, and we see new faces every day. People are coming from Lower Sackville, Halifax, Bedford, Enfield and sometimes New Brunswick just to try our pasta,” they said. “Now 95 per cent of them are regular customers.”

“We are thankful and humbled because they are willing to cross the bridge for us; they are thinking about us every time they want to celebrate special occasions,” says Carl.

The duo feels the same way about the challenges facing many new businesses. They don’t qualify for most of the government support programs since they only opened last June. However, that’s not a roadblock they’re unwilling to get around.

“We will hire employees in the summer to help us make more pastas, but we are certain that we want Chanoey's to stay small and simple,” says Catherine about the future of their quaint restaurant.

“We plan to continue bringing more and new flavours to Nova Scotia, something unique and tasty for everyone.”■

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