Sharpfle Waffle reopens in Hintonburg after dispute on Wellington St. West

James Choi - Sharpfle Waffle
James Choi is the owner of Sharpfle Waffle, which recently relocated to Hintonburg (Photo by Charlie Senack)

Sharpfle Waffle is back in business after closing up shop on Wellington Street West and relocating to a new spot in Hintonburg. 

The waffle and coffee shop was forced to close its doors on Wellington West in April due to an exclusivity clause a neighbouring business had with the building’s landlord. Sharpfle Waffle reopened at 173 Hinchey Ave. on July 15.

Owner James Choi said community support made all the difference. 

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

“It’s what’s been driving us to work that extra mile,” he said.  “I was very much surprised. We weren’t expecting so much care and love for what we did. I think it’s a once-in-a-business opportunity where you get to experience that kind of passion and admiration for what we do.”

The new space is bigger than the former location, allowing Sharpfle Waffle to offer indoor and outdoor seating. Kitchen space is also more plentiful, allowing for better equipment. 

“The setup we have here means we can do much better,” said Choi. “We are very happy that we now have some space to invite people into a more cozy and relaxing environment.”

While circumstances worked out for the better, it took months to achieve. 

Sharpfle Waffle opened its doors in Wellington in December 2021. Last April, the business announced its lease agreement would be terminated after Stella Luna Gelato Cafe, located just a few doors down, enforced an exclusivity clause it had in place with the landlord, Tamarack Homes. 

In order to stay in the Wellington location, Sharpfle Waffle would have needed to remove specialty coffee from its menu, but drip coffee and steeped or brewed tea could still be served. The restaurant’s dining area, which sat eight, also would have needed to close, leaving the business offering only takeout service. 

It wouldn’t have been a sustainable business model, said Choi. 

At the time, Stella Luna co-owner Zachary Giuliani said allowing Sharpfle Waffle to operate out of the same plaza was a breach of the agreement Stella Luna had with the landlord. 

A statement of claim filed in Ontario Supreme Court by Stella Luna said it was “suffering irreparable harm” and faced a “real risk that the business will not prosper or even survive in the presence of direct competition.” It also claimed the gelato shop paid a premium for the exclusivity rights.

Choi said he’s unsure where the legal fight now stands, but is trying to move on from the situation. 

“It’s not been easy,” he said. “I do not intend to blame anyone, but the situation itself was very difficult. I think there were moments where I felt like giving up would be easier.”

Exclusivity clauses in business are common, said Ian Lee, an associate professor of strategic management at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, in an interview earlier this year. He said they are designed to prevent competition and are widely used in the retail and restaurant industries. 

“I don’t like them because I feel more competition is better than less competition,” he said. “I wish they were prohibited but they aren’t. It’s legal and we are a rule of law country. Stella Luna is perfectly in their right to enforce that.” 

Lee compared exclusivity clauses to other types of legally binding agreements, such as life insurance policies, job contracts and mortgages. 

Sharpfle Waffle specializes in “croffles,” which are Korean waffles made out of croissants. The business offers a non-traditional approach with both sweet and savoury options. 

“We are still working on ways to improve what we have and to understand the surrounding community better,” Choi said. “When the time is right, we are hoping to expand our menu and to offer more exciting things.”

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.