By Charlie Senack
A Westboro business is working to recover after its windows were smashed, leaving over $14,000 in damages, after its grand opening in May.
Owner Justyna Borowska opened Wedel – Touch of Europe’s second Ottawa location at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 21. The next morning (May 22), she received a call from police saying there was a break-in at the shop — a grocery store, deli and bakery all in one located at 300 Richmond Rd.
“At 7 a.m. in the morning, I got a phone call from the police saying that someone tried to break in and that the windows were smashed,” Borowska said. “When I arrived at the front of the building soon after, there were broken pieces of glass everywhere.”
It’s not the first time the building has been targeted. In April — just a few weeks earlier and after former tenants Pietro’s Corner moved out — a similar incident took place. Windows were smashed but nothing was stolen. It delayed the opening of Wedel – Touch of Europe, with new windows being installed only days before its grand opening.
“This time, I was a bit luckier because they tried to smash every single window, but I think someone was not very strong,” said Borowska.
The upper windows remained intact but dents show where large rocks hit the glass. This time around, a gelato machine was also damaged in the act of vandalism.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help with some of the costs associated with repairing the damage, and, within two days, it raised over $6,000 of its $10,000 goal.
“The amount of love and support in this community that I have right now is amazing,” said Borowska. “There is so much kindness and love. I received some cupcakes from a local bakery and flowers from another neighbourhood business. This situation has shown that I have an amazing community around me.”
Borowska, a single mom with two daughters, moved to Ottawa from Europe in August 2020 after wanting to be closer to her parents, who live in London, Ontario. Born in Poland, she lived in the United Kingdom for 12 years and worked in the hospitality industry. After arriving in Ottawa, Borowska says the first community she visited was Westboro and she immediately fell in love with its character.
“Right away, I went, ‘Oh my God, this is beautiful. This place reminds me of Europe,’” she said of the rows of patios alongside family-owned businesses and flower-lined streets.
The first Wedel – Touch of Europe opened in Market Square in the ByWard Market late last year. After it proved successful, Borowska wanted to open a second location in Westboro.
“It was very challenging and very risky, especially during a pandemic. I used all my savings and I put all my hard work into this,” said Borowska.
Wedel – Touch of Europe offers flavours from different areas including Hungary, Germany, France, Poland and Russia. The business offers products you can’t find anywhere else in the city. Borowska says when someone visits her shop, she wants them to feel like they are part of a family.
“I believe in homemade food; I believe in food that tastes like it’s from your grandma’s house,” she said. “I believe in amazing coffees and gelatos. I want a place full of love where you can go and see passion and have a bunch of healthy food.”
Judy Lincoln, Westboro Village BIA executive director, said she woke up on May 22 to countless messages from neighbouring businesses saying a break-in had occurred.
She drove down to Wedel – Touch of Europe soon after to offer support. Lincoln says about four or five break-ins have happened in the Westboro community over the last year and Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper will be getting statistics from Ottawa Police to learn more information.
“It’s just breakage for the sake of breakage,” said Lincoln. “And it’s tough for the businesses that have insurance too, because they may not cover the full cost of damages. To replace glass like that it’s going to be at least a $10-15,000 bill. They are extra stresses and [challenges] on top of the stresses and challenges of running a business — all while in a pandemic.”
Lincoln says Westboro businesses want to see other merchants succeed and she was proud of the community for how they came together to support Borowska. She was also proud of the new business for reopening its doors just hours after the act of vandalism.
The windows are boarded up with plywood for now, but Borowska isn’t giving up.
“I know that there are people around me who are amazing and they have a heart,” she says. “When something like this happens you lose your hope and think it’s the worst, but after people [were] cheering me up and buying my products, I went, ‘Oh my God, I got my hope and belief in people back.’ We as human beings need to show respect to one another.”
To learn more, visit Wedel – Touch of Europe’s GoFundMe page.