By MAGGIE M, Editor, http://thewedge.LIVE, Show Host, “WHERE IN the wedge is MAGGIE M?”
The epicentre of the wedge, Smiths Falls, keeps sprouting new life. It is spiriting to see local pride grow as awareness of its precious assets are continuously unveiled for global to local viewing.
This writer witnessed moist eyes and smiles when the news of Guy Saumure & Son Construction’s rescuing of the County Fair Mall leaked as the ink dried on the deal. When the mall is finally filled with commercial tenants and bristling with life, the wedge pledges to deliver a hero’s cape to Chris Saumure, CEO, personally. Already, the first new tenant is knocking down walls, installing new pipes to produce an extraordinary venue.
FIVE FOUND FIRST CRAFT BREWERY
This journalistic event will remain in my memory for some time. I entered the empty shell of the former Target store at the mall, calling out for attention in this ‘echo-dome’. Suddenly, five young men erupted from doors and openings to greet me, wearing matching, embroidered 4 Degrees Brewing Company golf shirts. The energy was palpable.
One of the first orders of the day was taste-testing. First, I cracked open the popular, North of 7, a lager. I am one of those girls that likes beer. This was followed by, a few sips of South of 7, a German-styled red ale. They were excellent; but, my fave was North of 7.
I felt myself getting dizzy after five sips; suffice it to say, I am an occasional, social drinker.
“I get more handsome,” one of the five partners replied, as I voiced my slipping focus.
Then we got down to business.
Reportedly, the idea of a craft brewery came to the minds of Howard and Ritchie in 2012, dining in a local restaurant, My Place, which had no license at the time. O! the irony.
Today, they deliver beer to over 25 venues. Now, they bring their brewing to Smiths Falls, to the former Staples location in the mall, across from the Food Basics grocery store. This will be handy for shoppers looking for convenience. The site will include a pub which seats 30, and a bar, in 2,800 sq. ft. (3,500 sq. ft. with offices). The brewing vats will be visible to all behind glass, from the parking lot and the pub. It’s brewing theatre.
“It’s a hobby,” the five agreed in chorus. “It’s an investment too.”
It’s not like they needed more tasks to fill their hours. All are married and four have ten children between them. Adams, Ritchie and Howard are volunteer Firemen. Howard is a local Attorney, Vandermeer works in patent law in Ottawa, Adams builds locks for Parks Canada, Ritchie operates an Orthodontic practice in town and Haines is the Project Manager for the County Fair Mall. This writer feels old just pondering the energy required to juggle so much.
Construction appears a long way from a soft opening in April and a grand opening in May; but consider, Guy Saumure & Sons Construction can raise up houses in days. Chris Haines is Project Manager, passionately at the task.
Imagine the darkness shown replaced by ceiling to floor windows, sunshine beaming between beer vats. It should be spectacular.
VALLEY CUSTOM CUTTING IT — BIG LEAGUE!
Angie and Dan Hoysted opened, Valley Custom Cutting (VCC), July 2016, on Lombard Street. Coincidentally, it is the location of a butcher from days gone by.
Reporting on last summer, “Customers were lined-up right out the door!”, exclaims Angie. The product is the freshest in town and priced at par with grocers, pound-for-pound.
The public may not realize that VCC are meat cutters for businesses such as restaurants and grocers, governed by license under OMAFRA; yet, they serve the public too.
“We are an anomaly,” explains Angie. We are also licensed under Public Health because of our storefront operation. Food safety is at the front of their minds.
Now, they are developing the last 1,000 sq. ft. of their space to operate a deli and a smoke-house. Customers will be able to purchase sliced meats and sandwiches in take-out format. Thank goodness, because I am not a big-chain-drive-thru type.
Their customer-base is expanding to serve Fluffy and Fido. Yup, they’re making cat and dog food now. Raw and cooked. Not kidding. Angie reamed recipes, “chicken, carrots, sweet potatoes, rice, beef…” I see a few leash hooks and water dishes outside this summer, in my mind’s eye.
The storefront is beautiful. It’s no surprise, as Angie was formerly the designer at Gallipeau Centre, appointing the residential suites. I recognize the backdrop as vintage, “Courtyard Suites.” I was equally impressed with the video screen airing sports; this will quell waiting angst during the summer rush.
This couple’s skill-set is ideal to succeed long-term. Dan has deep experience in meat handling and food safety. He was Head Butcher at now defunct abattoir, Rideau Meats. Angie is a people-person caring for the front-end. This woman has the patience of Job and a smile that never quits.
I congratulated her on 4 Degrees Brewing choosing VCC to procure their meats. It was a surprise to her; but, not to me.
WONTON CRUNCHING BIGGER NUMBERS
Prim Singh and I met on a soggy, rainy day–the kind where the cold gets into your bones. As I crossed the Wonton Crunch threshold, we exchanged the perfunctory ‘prim and proper’ joke. He is very much his namesake coupled with a cheerful disposition.
He is also a winner (and survivor) of Dragon’s Den. During his television segment, all the Dragons bid for Wonton Crunch; Jim Treliving was the victor. In the end, Singh declined Treliving’s ‘re-negotiation’ for more holdings. Prim and properly, he set sail on his own. You can watch the CBC Wonton Crunch clip here.
Wonton Crunch has obtained distribution by Sysco, a big player in the food biz. They are also slotted in chains like Farm Boy, the Independent and served in endless foodservice establishments.
Singh hails from Trinidad and Tobago. I learned, the nation’s population is split 50/50, African and Indian. From this anecdote, we began to wax about each other’s passion for coconut oil, getting off point. My encounters are never dull.
He is also a Hershey plant ex-pat having worked the line for 19 years. In his time there he invented processes that are still used by Hershey this day. This surely informed the building of his wonton-makers that produce 15 wontons per minute.
While employed, he studied computer networking. This culminated into the launch of Reboot Computers in Smiths Falls, which operated from a separate door to his home for 16 years. Entrepreneurship was evidently bred-in-the-bone.
He started making wontons in his home in 2012 and incorporated the company in 2014. The growth of Wonton Crunch is unfolding before our eyes. He speaks in terms of millions now–wontons and dollars.
Singh could be a Smiths Falls Ambassador. His love of and commitment to the town is remarkable.
“I only hire from the town,” he adds. Treliving’s requirement that he move his family out of Smiths Falls was another deal-breaker.
Last January 18, 2017, Wonton Crunch, moved from the Gallipeau Centre into a new, industrial location on Centre Street, behind Giant Tiger.
“It is three times bigger than our former location,” he states.
The wontons come in five different stuffings including butter chicken and jalapeno cream cheese. The latest is hilarious: Spicy Chicken Buffalo Wing-Ton. They are either made from dough or noodles, for frying or boiling. Accompanied by the right dip, it is a popular snack or appetizer.
I was grateful to have received a parting gift of spicy, Coriander-Pork Noodle Wontons which I made into soup in two minutes flat. The shivering ended.
NEWLYWED GARAGEPRENEUR MAKES SMART START
Sara and Rob Foley have parked their vehicles outside until their new business moves up and out. They both work at other jobs, fulfilling Howling Designs contracts in their “spare hours”.
As many couples, love brought them into a venture together; but, marriage came first. So, they are newlyweds, and new business owners. Sara is also a volunteer fireman hoping to throw her hat in the ring here in Smiths Falls. I know, Superwoman, right?
Howling Designs cuts and heat applies letters and logos to promotional clothing, vehicles and produce outdoor signage–all in their garage. They can run circles around the competition by virtue of their low overhead.
They operate a vinyl and canvas cutter and printer, 54″ wide, a 30″vinyl cutter for letters and designs, and a 54″ laminator. For outdoor signs, they use alumicore which is tougher than tyvek. Their equipment is impressive and their operation efficiently laid out.
Watch out for Garagepreneurs. They are lean players and if skilled in their trade as is Sara Foley, they will soon be looking for bigger digs. She ran the same business in Bancroft for years. Rob pitches in often with all matters; yet, the couple hopes to focus solely on Howling Designs in the near future.
It’s not so long ago a certain Steve Jobs left his garage to become No. 1 on the Fortune 500. Jobs sprung a new era of bootstrapped entrepreneurs, enabling millions to start from home with respect.
Starting small and growing steadily, and mindfully. It’s within everyone’s reach. It’s the future!
When you visit Howling Designs, you might meet Lilly, their young daughter, who will tell you about her fish, ‘Sven’.