By Charlie Senack –
A few years ago, Euphoria Hair Salon owner Mike Fulga began to notice that rent for commercial spaces in Wellington West was on the rise.
Concerned that the increasing cost of commercial space would hinder new, small, mom-and-pop businesses from putting down roots in the area, he set out to find ways to support them.
“We don’t want to lose small businesses and be taken over by giant companies who are the only ones who can afford to be here,” Fulga says. “It will change our community, and it won’t be that interesting, trendy neighbourhood anymore.”
Turning to European cities for inspiration, the business owner soon came up with the idea of creating a street food market.
“The idea came just from being in this neighbourhood for a long time and watching how it’s evolved,” he says. “The idea is something you would see in artistic cities, and since this area is quite artistic, I see it working out.”
A pilot project launched this year to test Fulga’s idea. Three businesses – Yakko Takko, Roasted Coffee and Piccolo Grande Gelato – started sharing Fulga’s patio at 1195 Wellington St., which borders onto Hamilton Avenue.
“They are sharing different areas of the space, and they are sharing it at different times,” says Fulga. “I like the street food idea, because no one vendor can really (cover) all of the expenses with a large space like a garden and a patio.”
The idea really is a simple one. Multiple businesses share the same space during various time slots throughout the day and split the cost of the bills. It’s a way for them to lower their individual expenses and make more of a profit.
MORE DINING OPTIONS
“From a financial point of view, it cuts rent down so much, which has helped us out greatly,” says Anton Ejov, owner of Piccolo Grande Gelato, which moved into the space in July and has signed on to be there for a minimum of three years.
“At the same time, it gives people a number of options as to where they want to eat. They can have dinner, coffee or dessert,” he adds. “It’s also helpful that it’s outdoors, because I don’t think we have anything like that in Ottawa. It’s essentially an outdoor food court.”
Ejov, who has another Piccolo Grande location in the Byward Market, says he wanted to enter the Wellington West neighbourhood for a while. He looked at different spaces throughout the community but couldn’t find anything that met his needs and budget.
Fulga says he hopes to expand the service in the next few months and has already started building a patio on the second floor of his hair salon. He is just waiting for the city’s permission to add a staircase up to the space and will then start looking for a new tenant.
As the space grows and more people become aware of the concept, the salon owner hopes to see a new mix of businesses use the space – something he believes would add even more character to the already vibrant neighbourhood.
“I’d like to bring maybe some entertainment or some experiential services into it like tattooing on the patio or fortune-telling, or really anything that will make it fun,” he says. “I’m entering into it with an open mind because I have to be prepared for the community to dictate what they want to see.”
The three businesses will be using the outdoor space until the end of October, and the area is then slated to close for the winter before reopening at the beginning of next May. Fulga says he’d like to find either a bakery or breakfast place to take over the space in the morning, when it’s currently not being used.