By Alyson Queen –
“Time does go by very quickly,” says Sheila Whyte, owner of Thyme & Again.
They started in 1991 as three people in a 400-square-foot space on Fairmont. Now they employ nearly 100 part-time and full-time staff at their 7000 square-foot location on Wellington.
Included in their current location, home since 2003, is a recently revamped, beautiful community space upstairs, called Exposure Gallery. “There are lots of different things happening here and it’s fun to share,” says Sheila.
After 25 years, you gain perspective and Ottawa’s culinary industry has certainly evolved in that time.
“John Taylor, from Domas, was the catalyst who stood up and said I’m going to support local. He paved the way for a lot of other people,” says Sheila. “We feel that’s part of who we are as well, supporting local farms and having really good food made from scratch.”
She opened during the recession. People were looking for quality and a business that they could depend on and trust.
One of her original lines was “you may never cook again” and that’s why she makes sure that even after 25 years, she sticks to her mission of providing good, real food.
“We want this to be the food that you would cook if you had the time to cook it.”
She recounts that before starting the business, she was her own best target client. Busy lives, not enough time to cook, and perhaps ordering pizza and take-out a bit too often.
With a take-home shop, retail merchandise, a gallery space, a catering business and a bustling café, she says that all aspects of the business have an important role. It’s continuing to grow, too.
“There is so much new life with the people that are working here, that are young and vibrant and have ideas. It’s growing based on the fact that it has so many elements,” says Sheila.
Looking back over 25 years, consumers’ needs have changed and Sheila and her team are always finding ways to embrace clean, healthy food that people can enjoy.
“We’ve been the go-to in the world of catering for special needs or allergies. But people are still asking ‘what can I get?’ so we’re always broadening our repertoire.”
A quarter century in the restaurant and catering business is indeed cause for celebration. So on Wednesday, August 31st there will be champagne and cupcakes and guaranteed, lots of smiles. The doors will be open for all to come and join in on the fun.
For now though, it’s about looking back on 25 years and thanking the many people who have been on the journey. On that original team of three it was Sheila, her husband, Clayton Kennedy, and her now general manager Rose Goyette. The circle has certainly widened and Sheila is very clear on one thing: her team is second to none and their collective energy makes Thyme and Again what it is.
“The place wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the people that work here. Every one of them. They are ambassadors and the life and soul.”
For a small business, and most importantly its success, it really comes down to the people. It’s the customers who continue to walk through the door or order catering. It’s the staff who show up every day, eager to try something new. And in this case, it’s also Sheila, who with vision and passion to spare, shows no sign of stopping.