Local business and consumer news. Openings, closings, deals, sales, what to buy and where to buy it, we round it all up and give you an insider's shopper's special on small business in Halifax. Contact shoptalk@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Think ink

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 1:46 PM

Harbouring a secret yen for an elaborate tattoo? Oceanic Art in Dartmouth wants to help fulfill that desire. The store, which opened July 1 at 121 Portland Street, is a custom tattoo shop, and all the body art produced inside is the work of one artist—

owner Scott Forbes. "My idea of a tattoo is to create custom, one-of-a-kind pieces," says Forbes. "If people have an idea for the tattoo, and they don't have a picture yet, but they've got a picture in their head, they can come and check us out, and hopefully we can get something drawn up for them." Forbes has been tattooing professionally for about two years, and has been an artist for most of his life. Forbes's wife Julie takes care of the business side of the tattoo operation, and can be found at the front desk every day the shop's open. "She knows quite a bit about tattooing as well—she's got a lot of them," says Forbes. The couple is hoping to throw a grand-opening party soon—people are invited to drop in then to check out the shop, chill out on its leather couch and watch koi swim around in the Oceanic Art indoor pond. Head to: oceanicart.ca for more info.


The rumours are true: Milano's Ristorante on Chebucto Road is no longer a Bring Your Own Wine establishment. When the restaurant re-opened after its recent renovations, it boasted a new liquor license and bar. "We wanted to be able to serve beer to our patrons who weren't fond of wine and be able to serve specialty coffees and ports and liqueurs," says Milano's supervisor Lisa Touga. Unfortunately, current Nova Scotia liquor laws say that restaurants can be either fully licensed or BYOB, but not both. But don't despair, wine enthusiasts: The wine now available at Milano's is reasonably priced, says Tougas. "I don't think there's a wine on our menu that's over $40. Everything is sort of around the $30 range, because we didn't want to start with a wine menu and seem like we had switched because we wanted to earn more money on the wine." The restaurant's co-owner, Ron Lovett, says business has picked up since Milano's made the switch. "Where you were kind of forced to drink a bottle of wine before...well, now you don't have to do that." Lovett says he'd like to re-instate the Bring Your Own Wine option—as soon as those liquor laws change. You can call Milano's at 431-6500.

Kitchen supplies: the sequel

Fans of kitchen-accoutrement store Cucina Moderna on Dresden Row will be pleased to learn that a second branch of the store is set to open in the Sunnyside Mall in Bedford mid-August. The new store will look and feel a bit different than the existing one, says Ariz David, who owns both locations. "It's just going to be a little more colourful, a little funkier." David opened the downtown store almost two years ago. Both locations will carry similar product lines, but their selection will differ slightly: the Bedford store's specialty will be cookware, knives and appliances, so its selection of these items may be more extensive than it is downtown. Learn more about all things kitchen-related at: cucinamoderna.ca.

Wide open spaces

Downtown Halifax frequenters have doubtless noticed that the former Sam the Record Man and Dooly's storefronts on Barrington are still pretty vacant. So, what's the delay in filling the spaces? The Dooly's space is still being renovated, says Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. "They're basically kind of gutting the ground floor on both the Barrington Street side and the Granville Street side." It was the building's landlord, Starfish Properties, who chose not to renew the Dooly's lease, because they wanted to do some work on the building, he points out. Starfish also owns the Barrington buildings housing Attica, the Peepshow Girly Boutique and Telus Mobility; whenever the company has purchased properties on the street, they've always "put retail in the ground floor," says MacKinnon. A spokesperson from Starfish confirmed that while there has been interest in the property, the company's not ready to officially release the name of a tenant. Meanwhile, the Sam's property has yet to be listed for sale by Sam Sniderman's family, which owns it, says MacKinnon. "We won't see anything happen with that building until it gets sold, but hopefully that will happen soon, and it will be to a buyer who wants to put someone in there right away."

This and that

Responding to recent feedback, The Noodle Nook on Blowers recently launched a new menu, and has lowered many prices; owner Ron Lovett (he also co-owns Milano's Ristorante, remember?) says most of the noodle-boxes are now priced at under $7 per box, and that "everybody's loving" the new Thai Peanut Sautee box (except, one imagines, the peanut-allergic)...Sometime during August, another branch of high-end shoe chain Town Shoes will open in the Halifax Shopping Centre, joining the Dartmouth Crossings location...Independent coffee emporium the Smiling Goat Organic Espresso Bar is set to open in the Paramount building on South Park during mid-August, and a Halifax branch of dog-supply paradise Bark and Fitz should be opening on Doyle August 10.

Don’t make me beg; email news of retail happenings to: shoptalk@thecoast.ca. Please please please.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

The natural look

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2007 at 3:14 PM

Evyeneia Manolakos, owner of Foxy Moon Hair Gallery at 2393 Agricola, was hearing the same complaint from many of her customers. "A lot of my clients are sensitive to products, so they weren't using any in their hair," she says. "I was telling them how to make natural products themselves at home, but I realized that no one was actually going to do that." To save her clients the time, Manolakos has started making and selling her own line of natural haircare products under the Foxy Moon label. The first of these products, an all-natural hair paste, is now available at the salon. The paste can be used "anywhere from short, choppy cuts to texturizing the ends of longer hair." It's also multi-purpose, and can be used as a hand or foot cream, or even a lip balm. The paste sells for $12 for a 2oz container. Also planned for the future are a shampoo, a conditioner and anti-frizz drops. To make the products, Manolakos teamed up with her sister, Anastasia, who makes natural soaps and beauty products for her own line called Anointment. For more information, call Foxy Moon at 444-7675.

Black gold

Spring on University, the fitness club and retail shop, may have closed its doors, but the cafe portion of the complex will stay alive under a new name. Ouro Preto is planning on officially opening on Monday, July 23 in the same location as the Spring Cafe at 5743 University Ave. The cafe is named for a UNESCO World Heritage town in Brazil. Ouro Preto is one of the oldest trading towns in one of the most predominant coffee territories in Brazil. Paul Graham, one of the three owners, felt the cafe could continue to do a good business. "It's a quite a unique space," he says of the sunny and spacious location. The windows that run along the entire front of the cafe look out onto the green belt that bisects University Avenue. There is also a patio for sunny summer sipping. The fitness center portion of the building will remain empty until another business moves in, but Graham is confident that the cafe will do well on its own. "Whereas before the cafe was a small part of the building, now it will be the focal point." Things are just about ready for business at Ouro Preto, but they are waiting for their new logo and signage to be finished, and for a new paint job after the space was recently used as a filming location for the Ricki Lake movie being shot in Halifax.

Third base

When it rains it pours...coffee, that is! (Ouch!) The south end isn't the only part of town getting a new neighborhood coffee shop. George and Gina Christakos are opening a yet-to-be-named cafe in the space at the corner of Windsor and Almon, formerly the home of Vivo Bistro. "We're looking to be a pretty casual, comfortable spot to hang out," says George Christakos. "We're working toward a coffeehouse atmosphere with a "Third Place' concept—a space you can call your own, away from work and home—casual and comfortable with a hint of sophistication." The "Third Place" will feature wi-fi internet, a brick-fired oven and a liquor license, along with an espresso bar and full cafe menu which includes lunch and dinner. The Christakos family are no strangers to the restaurant business. George just finished a one-year stint as the manager of the re-vamped Armview Restaurant, but he tells me his new venture will involve the whole family. "Our grandmother, YiaYia Georgia, will be showing us all her bread and dessert recipes and a few other kitchen secrets." Right now the space is being renovated, but is expected to be open by mid-August.

Second base?

Rumours have been floating around about the possibility of the Empire Dartmouth theatre on Portland Street becoming Metro's only second-run movie theatre. Dean Leland, VP of marketing at Empire, says no such decisions have been made. "Right now we are playing with pricing , but it's still a first-run product, just at second-run pricing." To compete with the new and exciting Empire Dartmouth Crossing multiplex, the Portland Street six-screen theatre has now lowered its prices to $6.99 for all seats. There are no plans to close the theatre, as Empire has already done with the Penhorn and Bedford locations, and for now at least, it will continue to screen new releases. So those of us who missed Stomp The Yard on the big screen are just going to have to deal.

Of note

Duly Noted, the charming little stationary shop on Quinpool Road, has started selling its greeting cards at Pete's Frootique on Dresden Row. When asked how the new arrangement has been working out so far, Duly Noted co-owner Nicole Venema says "Awesome!" The cards have been in Pete's Frootique since the beginning of July. For more information about Duly Noted and their products, go to dulynoted.ca... No more excuses for looking like a slob. Banana Republic, The Gap's snobby younger sibling, has opened at the Halifax Shopping Centre. Let me be the one millionth person to say that, yes, they have no bananas. But they do have chinos. Boy, do they have chinos... And what better place to wear new Banana Republic duds than the new Starbucks Cafe, now open in the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront on Lower Water Street.

Dress our inbox with tips about business changes. Email: shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jam space jam

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2007 at 1:30 PM

Area 52 Productions, the popular local band practice space, is in the process of moving. Co-owner Kirk Symonds explains, as delicately as possible, that they weren't given much choice about leaving their long-standing location at 2182 Gottingen. "The lease ended at the end of June, and there was no renewal offered from the landlord." As of July, no new tenant had been found for the space, so Area 52 was able to extend their lease for another month—but that ends soon. Symonds and his business partner, Stefan Schiebel, have been actively seeking a new spot, hoping to move as soon as the month ends. The hunt hasn't been easy. "Honestly, I think it would be easier to open a brothel than a music studio. Landlords really don't want that amount of noise." Symonds has been helping Area 52 clients find alternatives, but hopefully it won't be long before Halifax's longest-running rehearsal space is up and running again in a new location. Symonds assures me that more information will be coming soon, so check back to learn what the future holds for Area 52. For now, you can call Area 52 at 492-2550.

Visual aid

Times might be tough for musicians looking for rehearsal studios, but the quieter art of photography has gained a couple of new spaces in the past year. One such spot is the Metro Visually Creative Artist Society, located in the Coburg Professional Centre at 6389 Coburg Road. The non-profit society offers 1,000 square feet of photo studio space, available for $25/hour. Along with the studio, photographers can rent camera equipment. Membership is not required, but is recommended, as members receive a rental discount. The society is open to both amateur and professional photographers and is available seven days a week with negotiable hours. As a non-profit the society also accepts donations of either camera equipment or cash. For more information or to book the studio call 830-2993.

Up with Downtime

Deco Restaurant is making happy hour a little happier with some live music. The newly-renovated bistro will host live jazz and blues starting Friday, July 13. For the next week, Deco will have live musicians performing on weeknights from 6 to 8pm while patrons enjoy happy hour pricing on drinks. These hours will be known as "Downtime," an idea conceived by floor manager Troy Arsenault. Deco is located at 5518 Spring Garden Road. For more info call the restaurant at 423-9795.

Tube U

Don't let it be said that Saint Mary's University isn't hip to what the kids are digging. Saint Mary's has launched a new feature on their website called SMUtube. It's a place for SMU students, faculty and staff to upload and share video clips. The goal is to create a new network of communication between present, past and prospective SMU students which taps into the popularity of media-share sites such as YouTube. Currently the site has video clips ranging from orientation week highlights, to professors discussing career opportunities in their fields, to a virtual tour of campus. To visit SMUtube, go to www.SMUtube.ca.

Pup tents

Camp Bow Wow is now open in Dartmouth at 650 Portland Street. The international company's first Canadian franchise is locally owned by John and Claudette Sinclair. Dogs, or "campers" as they are referred to at Camp Bow Wow, have access to three large outdoor and three large climate-controlled indoor play areas, which include fencing, shade areas, pools and playground equipment. Overnight campers get to stay in cozy cabins with fleece bedding. Owners can even watch their dogs remotely on the net thanks to a number of Camper Cams. The doggie enthusiastic Sinclairs are excited to introduce Camp Bow Wow to Atlantic Canada. "As dog lovers," says John Sinclair, "We are having as much fun as the dogs that stay with us!" Camp Bow Wow is also involved with the local SPCA and other animal shelters, and provides free shelter to foster dogs while finding adoptive homes for them. The Sinclairs encourage dog owners to drop in and look at the facilities. You can also check out their website at www.mycbw.com/hrm or call them at 431-DOGS.

Positive spin

There might be such a thing as being too successful. For 10 years, Propeller Brewing Co. has been bottling their popular craft ales and sodas for the thirsty people of HRM. As a testament to how good their products are, or, perhaps, to how much Halifax loves to drink, Propeller has been unable to meet production demands of late. To solve the problem, the Gottingen Street brewery has ordered new tanks to double production capacity. But the tanks haven't arrived yet, and that means Propeller fans might have a bit of a wait on their hands for their favourite beverages. Company founder John Allen appreciates everyone's patience. "The public, the NSLC and our licensees have been incredibly understanding," says Allen, "They're happy to see a truly locally owned brewery succeed and many, if not most, of them have been with us from the beginning." To contact Propeller, telephone 422-7767.

Fill our mug. Email: shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cafe notte

TC Demaresq browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Timothy's World Coffee owner Ross Miller says the decision to close the Spring Garden location of the coffee-shop chain was purely economical. "It's beneficial to the overall health of the business. There are still two locations remaining open." (On Barrington Street and in the Historic Properties.) The lease on the storefront at 5686 Spring Garden has been taken over by Bell Canada, which could mean either the first Bell Mobility location in Atlantic Canada, or a new downtown Aliant dealer (Aliant is a subsidiary of Bell). When asked if the opening of Starbucks across the street had had an impact on the business at Timothy's, Miller says, "Not really. I bought the location just after Starbucks opened and there were actually increases in the numbers." Despite the steady business, factors such as the high rent on Spring Garden have made Miller look elsewhere for his coffee-shop locations. "There will be expansion of the business," he says. "Just not on Spring Garden Road."

Internet killed the video star

The south end loses a gem this week. Super Video is closing. The silver lining to this dark cloud for movie fans is that the store is selling off its entire stock. Super Video will be open daily from 4 to 10pm until everything has been sold, which is expected to take a week or two. Owner Greg Boudreau was forced to make the decision to close the movie rental store after a considerable downturn in business. "It appears that video is going the same route as music," he says, referring to the popularity of internet downloading. Super Video has been open for 20 years, which means people have been renting from there since Three Men and a Baby was a hot new release. Boudreau says the movies are mostly priced in the $6 to $16 range and they are expected to sell quickly. Thrifty film collectors can find the store at 1300 Queen for a limited time only. Call 425-3060 for more information.

Tommy, can you beer me?

"No puffin' but still smokin'!" is the slogan for the 10th anniversary of Tom's Little Havana. There were some who feared for the future of the popular Doyle Street bar and restaurant after the smoking ban threatened to take the "Havana" out of Tom's little establishment. When it first opened, and for most of its years of operation, Tom's was a cigar bar, offering a wide choice of things to smoke as well as to drink and eat. For better or for worse, you can no longer light things on fire and stick them in your mouth at Tom's, but you can enjoy the full menu, or a drink on the patio: because a scotch doesn't necessarily need a cigar. Contact the restaurant by calling 423-8667.

Book a bigger space

If you've been to the John W. Doull book store, you'll know it could use a little more space. It's not uncommon to find yourself carefully stepping around waist-high piles of books during a visit. After 20 years of buying and selling all types of books, the two-storey shop is bursting at the seams. However, it will now be expanding to a second location—a block up from the current shop's Barrington and Prince address—at Argyle and Prince. The sister store will provide Doull with another 1,000 square feet and the plan is to move several categories of books, including children's literature, to the smaller shop.

The zen of 'za

Just because it's fast doesn't mean it can't be healthy. Angelo Wayne Alof is trying to change the way the world thinks about fast food by starting up the first organic, halal and kosher franchise restaurant. The name will be Angel's Organics and the product will be organic pizza. The first store will be opening soon on Dutch Village Road and Alof plans to make it the first of many. "We're taking a product that is popular globally and making it organic," he says, explaining his strategy. "I want to make Atlantic Canada a gateway to the world. I want to bring to the world a sample of what we can do. If we put our hands together and our minds together we can raise a healthy generation." Alof is tireless when it comes to spreading his message that organic food is not only healthy, it's environmentally friendly and can even increase land security. Can a pizza bring world peace? Maybe not exactly, but Alof sees it as a step in the right direction. "We all have to work together," he says, and right now he's working with provincial health and education ministers, discussing with them the benefits of having organic food in public schools among other issues. Alof will also be competing on behalf of Canada at the Las Vegas Pizza Expo. Look out for Angel's Organics, which will be making its debut soon.

Bits and bites

The Scooter Commuter has scooted on over to 6247 Quinpool after closing both its Dresden Row and Bedford Highway locations. For more information call 422-RIDE...Also on Quinpool, rumour has it that a Greek restaurant will indeed be filling the space formerly occupied by The Nail and Kneecap. The name is believed to be It's All Greek to Me...You can now catch the pretzel craze that's sweeping the nation at Scotia Square. A Pretzelmaker has opened in the food court, replacing TCBY. Now how about an Orange Julius? I could really go for a Tropi-colada.

Twist and shout. Email: shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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