Why did these diverse entrepreneurs choose Vanier?
Vanier is becoming a great place to live, work and play, regardless of whether you think a T-shirt is underwear or formal wear.
Millions of dollars of new commercial and residential investment is already pouring into this area. The population is growing, incomes are rising, and so too are expectations for goods and services that are just a short walk down the street.
The area is proud of its Francophone roots and French is still the mother tongue of some 40 per cent of residents. However, Vanier is fluently multilingual, with locals and visitors easily conversing in English, French and a host of other languages from around the world.
This is reflected in the variety of businesses that operate in the area. Don’t come to Vanier expecting to find the big box landscape of the ’burbs. Vanier businesses are as unique as the people who run them.
Pizza and coconut cream pie, oh my!
Just ask Rema Saab.
In the 1960s, her uncle Louis came over from Lebanon and started up his own restaurant in a converted house at 181 McArthur Ave. Almost 50 years later, Louis’ Restaurant and Pizzeria is still going strong at that same location, now owned by Rema’s parents and employing multiple members of her family.
This old school diner, known for its pizza and a mountainous coconut cream pie that has to be seen to be believed, attracts customers from as far as Stittsville, Rockland and Gatineau. It still features the original orange seats, because Rema’s father thought the colour brought him luck.
Much of Rema’s family has put down roots in Vanier. Her sister runs a beauty boutique next door, her uncle a hair salon across the street.
“It’s very friendly people here, we love the people, they’ve accepted us, it was a very successful place for us to start a business,” Rema said. “It’s a point of pride now to tell people we’re from Vanier.”
Tex mex with a Salvadoran twist
The combination of strong Francophone roots and multicultural diversity drew Maria Ventura and her family to Vanier 26 years ago. Their household spoke French and Spanish, and found Vanier to be an inclusive community where they fit right in.
“I like Vanier because you can find people from everywhere,” Maria said. “I’ve raised three teenagers here and I’ve always been happy and comfortable to be part of this community.”
Eight years, ago, they realized her husband Roberto’s dream and parlayed his restaurant experience into their own eatery. They chose Montréal Road because it was an affordable commercial location with high visibility and lots of pass-by traffic.
Today, Tukan Restaurant is a bustling success. It’s one of only two restaurants in Ottawa to serve authentic Salvadoran cuisine, with a twist—it combines on the menu with Tex-Mex. Folks from all over the National Capital Region and even further come to enjoy traditional dishes made with rice, red silk bean, plantain, pork and fried fish, with alguashte (a sauce made with pumpkin seeds) and pupusa (stuffed corn tortillas).
“Vanier has changed a lot through the years and people have a very different concept of the community now,” said daughter Carolina. “There are more kids around, more families.”
Fine art and great stories
When Abed Younes decided he was too young to retire and looked to start up his next new business, he too found himself drawn to Vanier.
It’s fair to say he considered his options. Palestinian by birth, Abed lived for years in Germany, working with the Red Cross to help countless refugees and immigrants from all over the world settle into new lives. When he came to Canada in 1990, he rented a car and spent five months exploring the country to better understand his new home.
Vanier has changed a lot through the years and people have a very different concept of the community now. There are more kids around, more families.
He then decided his best way to put down roots was to start his own business. Over the past 25 years, Abed has built up and sold several local businesses, all in some way art-related, including Picture Plus. About 18 months ago, he started up his latest venture, a custom framing and fine art prints shop on Beechwood Avenue called Art House Custom Framing.
“People ask me why I work with art,” Abed said. “Art is the only way to run away without leaving your home.”
It hasn’t taken him long to build up a strong customer base from among local residents and even nearby embassies with hard work, a focus on quality and word of mouth. Social work is still in his blood and his shop has become a local favourite for regulars who often drop by just to chat.
“This is such an amazing area,” Abed said. “Beechwood is booming.”
French maracons … by way of Venezuela
David Seba, owner and manager of Quelque Chose Pâtisserie on Montréal Road, found the same welcoming community as the Venturas years later.
He and wife Julia, a pastry chef trained in Paris, decided Vanier was the place to be when they came to Canada three years ago from Venezuela. With a large local customer base, few established competitors in the area and affordable real estate, Vanier offered the opportunity to give their small business a strong start.
While Quelque Chose makes a variety of tasty treats, Julia’s specialty is macarons in flavours ranging from vanilla to salted caramel and dulce de leche with puffed quinoa.
“The community is very thankful to us for bringing a nice bakery here,” David said. “We took a chance and I think it was worth it.”
Entrepreneurs like David and Julia are investing in Vanier because of its diversity, strong sense of community, quick transportation link to downtown and affordable commercial real estate.
Is Quartier Vanier Ottawa’s next ‘it’ neighbourhood?
Vanier is a community pulling itself up the bootstraps, like Westboro did in the ’90s. It’s a developer’s dream, with prime locations at eye-catching prices.
There just isn’t another neighbourhood so close to downtown Ottawa that still offers such untapped potential for mixed-used development, building a business or putting down roots to grow a family.
Download the free digital magazine to meet the businesspeople of Quartier Vanier and hear their stories.
Learn more about the opportunities for developers, investors and retailers in this thriving community.
Go to www.investinQV.com to download the free digital magazine and meet the businesspeople of Quartier Vanier, hear their stories, and learn more about the opportunities for developers, investors and retailers within this thriving community.
Interested in setting up shop in Vanier, visit www.vanierbia.com or call the Quartier Vanier BIA office at 613-745-0040.