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, September 27, 2007

Cutting a rug

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2007 at 11:03 AM

Did the April closing of the Zephyr Rug Gallery on Cunard leaving you feeling adrift and abandoned? Worry not, friend—Zehpyr is back. And it's roomier, fancier and has customer parking. This week, Zephyr Rug and Home, the second incarnation of the aforementioned rug emporium, is set to open at 6232 Quinpool (formerly the Scout Shop). The new space gives sibling co-owners Labi Kousoulis and Matina Aucoin more room to work with. The old store space was around 800 square feet while the new one boasts a whopping 2,500. That means Zephyr's pretty hand-knotted Iranian and Afghan rugs can now be displayed on a moveable rack, rather than being laid out flat on inconvenient platforms. The store's inventory has expanded, too: Zephyr now carries furniture, home decor items and art, along with its standard floor coverings. Aucoin and Kousoulis had always hoped to move to a bigger location. "When we first opened, we opened in a small space with very low overhead, and we thought "If things go well...'" says Aucoin. "Our goal was always to buy our own building." Since April, the siblings have renovated the new space; the floor has been lowered several feet and stained, the storefront is new and the interior has been gutted. Bigger, better Zephyr is also doing its part to support the Halifax art scene—all the paintings for sale inside are the work of the store's featured local artist, Barbi Jollota. Intrigued? Check out zephyrhome.com for more, or call the store at 446-4622.

Here comes the bridal shop

Across the way, Annabell's Fashions also re-opens this week, in its new location at 6245 Quinpool (formerly Mitchell Furs & Outerwear). For the last couple of years, the shop, which specializes in bridal wear and "day wear," has shared a space with The Model Shop down the street. Why the move? "I want my business to grow and become successful," says shop owner Nan Delorey. "The traffic is busier at this end , too," she points out. The store, which carries "different, classic, sweet" gowns and lots of "timeless" pieces, is named after Delorey's grandmother, Annabell. Before the shop became Annabell's, it was called Model Bride. Delorey worked there for eight years, before agreeing to buy the business from its former owner. "This is what I was cut out to do in life," she says. "I like seeing happy people." Delorey also enjoys helping to make people's weddings memorable. "It's a very important day of people's lives. If I can make it fun and exciting for them while they're looking for their dress, I'm going to do that." Heading down the aisle? Contact the shop at 404-3825.

Hey! Homemade hummus!

We told you it was coming. Now, we're telling you it's here. Aladdin's Palace, Spring Garden's newest Lebanese eatery, opened its doors for business last Thursday. The store's space was formerly home to the Italian Garden; it's now home to delicious hummus, and other yummy Middle Eastern eats, including falafel, fried kibbi and stuffed grape leaves. The restaurant will offer "the real taste of Lebanese food...all homemade," says store owner Kaz Elajami. Elajami (who co-owns the restaurant with Mohammed Hamdan), is originally from Lebanon, and has wanted to open a Middle Eastern restaurant since coming to Halifax two years ago, but has been waiting to find the right location. Elajami also owns Artisans Hair Room, a salon in Mic Mac Mall. Talking to his customers there helped Elajami realize that if he built his restaurant, people would come. "I saw lots of demand for Lebanese food," he says. And, the Aladdin's Palace food has pedigree: Both chefs worked at popular Lebanese restaurants in Montreal and Elajami's sure customers will be happy with the restaurant's generous portions, too. Students with a valid student ID get a 15 percent discount so drop the ramen noodles and head downtown. Call them at 459-5550.

I do hope that doggy's for sale

Down the street at MacKay Fashions, Spring Garden's other newest business (5411 Spring Garden), owner Alvin MacKay can't offer you a chicken shwarma. But he can offer you "quality, service and value." He describes his new boutique as a "contemporary ladies' fashion shop with traditional values." The store space, which was home to Brio Bodywear, required minimal renovation, although, a fancy new sign is on the way. MacKay has worked in retail for 35 years and MacKay's Fashions is the first business he's owned. It's also a family affair: MacKay's wife and stepdaughter are working there to help get it off the ground. His dog is helping, too. Meka, a terrier, has been declared the store's mascot. The store opened last week. Give it a call at 444-7557.

Mall talk

Some welcome news for fans of all things itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow, and polka dotted: Quebec- and Ontario-based bathing suit vendor Bikini Village will open a store in the Halifax Shopping Centre in mid-October and a branch of shoe chain Feetfirst Shoes is also set to open in the mall at around the same time. There's a distinct possibility that they'll be carrying Hush Puppies; there's a distinct possibility we'll be buying some.

Shop openings and closings are happening as we speak, and the public has a right to know. Send tips my way at shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

A world without...One World

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2007 at 10:47 AM

The pots, food supplies and coffee-makers have all been carted out and the fridge is gone, too. As reported last week in Scene and Heard, the One World Cafe—an adored north end all-ages venue and community gathering-place—is officially closed. Owner Ken Pilkey's dad, Dennis, locked the cafe's door on Sept. 12. Dennis has spent the last week cleaning the cafe out, and plans to finish sometime this week The cafe's abrupt closing, which shocked many people, became an unfortunate necessity following several earnest attempts on the part of the Pilkeys to keep the heavily-in-debt cafe open and running. Ken, who's sick, signed bankruptcy papers on Sept. 10, a step taken to enable the Pilkeys to sell the cafe to One World manager Siobhan Murphy and business partner, Josh Herbin, liability-free. The planned sale fell through, which put the responsibility for the cafe in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee, who needed the cafe to be locked before he could file the bankruptcy papers and respond to the cafe's creditors. Ken first opened the cafe in April 2005. "It's a concept he's had for years, and it was a dream on his part," says Dennis. "I think that the difference that the cafe made was truly a wonderful community experience. And I really sincerely regret that it was not possible to carry on...But it just wasn't." The space is available to rent starting in October:Landlord Dimo Georgakakos (who also owns Gus' Pub) plans to list the cafe on the rental market within the next few days.

Re-zoning to the rescue

After spending months in bureaucratically-induced limbo, the Just Us Cafe at 5896 Spring Garden is now fully renovated, and ready to serve you both food and Fair Trade organic specialty coffees. The cafe has been open in a limited capacity during its renovations, serving coffee- and tea-to-go in exchange for donations to Oxfam and Amnesty International. Meanwhile, a new ramp, patio and upstairs balcony were constructed (from sustainably harvested timber, natch), windows were added to the front of the cafe, and a wall was knocked out to create more back-counter space. "We were sort of waiting for all the bureaucratic and physical pieces of our building to fall into place," says Ned Zimmerman, the cafe's manager. The cafe now serves baked goods, soups, and samosas, and also has a brand-new espresso machine that's "working around the clock." Most importantly, it's the perfect place to cozy up with a book (or an economics text). "I've had a few people say to me it's just a very comfortable atmosphere," says Zimmerman. Comfortable and socially responsible. Ta-dow! Call Just Us at 423-0856.

Men in Gucci

Park Lane shop Men at Large is looking to branch out. As its name suggests, the shop caters primarily for plus-sized men—carrying large-sized clothes, underwear and socks from lines such as Chaps, Stanfield's and McGregor. While the store plans to keep its XL-friendly name (and its large-size duds), it's currently in the process of bringing in new clothing lines and accessories from European fashion heavyweights such as Gucci, Prada and Armani. The store will be trying to bring in the fashions in plus-sizes whenever possible, but the new clothes will mostly be available in smaller sizes. "We have a lot of people that come in for regular sizing," explains manager John Balan. The store has also recently hired fashion and marketing consultant Mortimer Cordero, who has largely been responsible for bringing in the store's fancy new offerings. While Men at Large is now catering to two very different markets, Balan thinks that all the store's new products will fit well together and complement each other. Watch out for the new inventory coming in during the next couple of weeks. You can also promote fair trade as you spend in the store since Cordero is endeavouring to bring in clothes which have been made by fairly compensated European clothing workers. He's also going to donate part of his salary to Amnesty International, to help promote humane working conditions worldwide. Contact the shop at 404-3714.

On the waterfront

Pizzeria a Mano, the much-anticipated new pizzeria from well-known Halifax restaurant moguls Maurizio and Stephanie Bertossi opened on Monday, at 1477 Lower Water Street (inside Bishop's Landing). The Bertossis also own Il Mercato, Mosaic and Bish. The family-friendly pizzeria plans to offer customers hand-made, oven-baked "za, yummy pastas and delicious desserts, plus an extensive wine list, all in an atmosphere similar to one you'd find in an authentic Italian pizzeria. And, of course, you can't beat that Harbour view. Give the restaurant a ring at 423-6266.

Late-night let-down

Rumour has it that the late-night Grafton haunt The Candy Apple Cereal Bar and 24-Hour Restaurant has closed. For years, the restaurant space was home to beloved 24-hour Halifax eatery The Apple Barrel which closed in February and the space renovated. There's no word yet regarding why the restaurant's closing (although, a month ago, the restaurant pared back its hours, citing dropping sales). One thing's for certain: Those wonderful post-bar bowls of Froot Loops just won't taste the same at home.

Do you own a shop? I don’t, but I’d love to talk about yours. Drop me a line at shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ch-Ch-Ch...Chabaa!

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2007 at 10:35 AM

After months of prepping, painting and renovating, downtown's newest Thai eatery, the Chabaa Thai Restaurant, is open for business at 1546 Queen. Restaurant co-owner and head chef Wen Prathumma, originally from Thailand, has been cooking in other restaurants for years, but Chabaa Thai is the first one he's owned. And Prathumma's ready to dazzle you with his culinary prowess. "I just want to make people say "wow!'" he says. Busy Prathumma did a lot of the aforementioned painting and prepping, too. The mural that greets customers as they enter Chabaa Thai is his handiwork, and so are the ornate carvings adorning the restaurant walls. "I've never done work like this before in my life," says Prathumma. The tables and chairs in the restaurant were all brought over from Thailand, as were many of the decorative statues displayed throughout the eating area. Chabaa Thai is open from 12 to 2:30pm and from 5 to 10pm every day except Tuesday. Want take-out? They've got that, too. And Prathumma's cooking has already garnered at least one positive review: "He's a really good cook," promises Kim Dao, Prathumma's fianc<0x00E9>e, and the restaurant's other owner.

Greece is the word

Starting next week, another restaurant joins the ranks of Quinpool's army of Greek eating venues. It's All Greek to Me opens at 6196 Quinpool, the former home of The Nail and Kneecap, this coming Monday. What distinguishes the new restaurant from other Greeks? "The Greek restaurants in the city...they're doing a fantastic job. They are great. But we want to do something a little more...like what you'd experience if you were in Greece," says Jimmy Zelios, one of the restaurant's three co-owners. "Essentially, we want to take a piece of Greece and bring it here. We felt there was just a void for an authentic experience from start to finish." Zelios and co-owners Helen Kapsales and Amy Aalders have also given the restaurant's interior a complete re-vamp. There are new stone walls, a stone-and-wood bar, new terracotta flooring and a new awning. It's all pretty fancy. Kapsales, who has been living in Greece for the last 20 years, will also be bringing her Greek expertise to the kitchen, acting as head chef. The restaurant's specialty will be its grilled meats. And watch for lots of platter-style eating (which means we'll all get to practice those sharing skills we learned in grade one). Just don't expect an intense rivalry between It's All Greek to Me and nearby restaurants Athens and The Greek Village. "We're not in competition with our neighbours. We're going to be basically complementing them," says Zelios.

Come see Seeds

Looking to support emerging artists without (necessarily) breaking the bank? Check out NSCAD University's new Seeds Gallery (1892 Hollis), which officially opened last week. It shows and sells work from NSCADU students, alumni and faculty—from inexpensive buttons, artist-made greeting cards and wallets, to $500 paintings and $3,000 statues. Most of the gallery's start-up costs were provided by fundraising by NSCADU's student union. "It's nice that it's by students, for students," says Jen Simaitis, the gallery's manager. The gallery takes a relatively small commission from all pieces sold (40 percent), which goes towards running the store, and eventually a SEEDS scholarship fund. The remaining 60 percent goes back to the artist. Seeds, now well lit, bright, and inviting, was once the home to the dearly departed cheap-drink haven J.J. Rossy's. "The colour theme in here was all black, peach and Pepto-Bismol pink," says Simaitis. Massive renovations were completed over the summer—the walls are now white, the floor is new, and the "drink railing" has gone. But don't take the drink railing's demise too hard. In its place you can find sweet, sweet art—and a counter made from a bowling-alley lane. Call Seeds at 494-8301.

Barrington Buzz

Some sad news for bargain hunters: Pinky's, the secondhand clothing boutique that's been open (in various incarnations) at 1272 Barrington since late last year will close by the end of October. The store is owned by costume maven Allie Edgecombe. For 20 years, the space was home to Allie's Costume Magic, Edgecombe's beloved costume rental and secondhand store. In November, she moved the costumes out, and Allie's became Pinky's. The costumes now have a home at Edgecombe's newest business venture, Allie's Boutique (1144 Barrington), which opened in January. When Pinky's closes, Edgecombe will have more time to nurture Allie's, which carries an ever-growing array of new fashions, accessories and jewellery (ordered from suppliers all over North America) as well as the standard Allie's secondhand duds and costumes. Eventually, Edgecombe would like to add a cafe. In the meantime, watch for crazy sales at Pinky's in the weeks to come.

Rest easy

Despite rumours to the contrary, downtown punk/metal bar, The Speakeasy, at 5640 Spring Garden, is still open for business and ready to rock you every Friday and Saturday. The venue closed for a couple weeks to re-group and to book some more acts, but it's now open again, and has shows booked for the next month at least.

Need some company, lonely shop-owner? Write me at shoptalk@thecoast.ca. We’ll do lunch.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mumford's the word

T.C. Demaresq browses for business words

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2007 at 2:20 PM

The shelves are different (and piney!), and the porn's gone. Indeed, change is in the air at Mumford Video (7037 Mumford). Why the make-over? As of June 1, the store's had a new owner. "We're reviving it; we're re-doing it. We're renovating," says Judith Gavin, the new owner in question. "It's like we're rescuing a puppy." The video store is the first business that Gavin has owned. "I've been looking for something, and when this came up, I was like, "Oh my god, it's in my neighborhood,'" she says. In addition to being a fan of the store's convenience, Gavin's also a fan of its content—she's been a movie fan for years, and took some film courses as part of her undergrad degree. Since taking over the store, Gavin has repainted the store, rearranged its shelves, and updated its computer inventory. Track lighting, spiffy black-and-white floors, and new section signs are also on the way soon. The store's selection has expanded, too. Gavin's brought in tonnes of documentaries and foreign flicks, and she's beefed up her collection of boxed sets. All the store's renovations should be finished by October. That's also when Gavin is hoping to give the store one final fancy update: a new yet-to-be-determined name. "I have one in mind, but I don't want to say anything yet...It's gotta be the right name," she says. Contact Mumford Video at 454-9000.

Marquee mark

Whip out your hankie, rock show fans, and get ready to cry tears of joy. As of Sept. 28 The Marquee Club will re-open as a regular music venue. Starting then, the club will be open four days a week, every week, from Wednesday until Saturday. The club's opening weekend will feature shows from Slowcoaster and Broken Social Scene founder Kevin Drew, who will be playing songs from his recent solo album Spirit If (backed by members of Broken Social Scene).

Tea, times two

If you've spent the last few months mourning the demise of the Starr's Bakery and Dessert Cafe in Dartmouth, perk up. The Queen of Cups Too, a sister cafe to the beloved Queen of Cups, is set to open in the former Starr's Bakery space (at 55 Portland Street), sometime during early September. Before Chantelle Reid, the owner of Starr's, moved to the Valley, she took steps to ensure that her store space would be put to good use. "We made an agreement that I would buy her equipment and take over her lease. Because neither of us wanted to see what she had brought to the downtown disappear," says Shelley Goodson, the owner/manager of both Queen of Cups locations. Goodson put up a sign recently on the new cafe's door, announcing the her plans; since then, she's gotten over 200 enthusiastic calls and emails from people looking to find out a more concrete opening date. "I think people are really looking forward to it...I am sort of working 24/7 so that they aren't disappointed," says Goodson. Like the Queen of Cups, the Queen of Cups Too will be offering delicious food made from scratch and a mind-boggling assortment of organic teas and Fair Trade coffees. But the new location's smaller, less formal and only has seating space for 10 to 12 people, so its main focus will be providing visitors with yummy take-out, quickly. The Queen of Cups Too is also equipped with a schmancy espresso machine, which means specialty coffees will abound. Plus, there's talk of "killer brownies" and "really great homemade soup." We're on the ferry already.

Speaking of royalty...

Sushi Nami Royale, the downtown core's newest sushi restaurant, is now open for business at 1535 Dresden. The sushi-savvy may recognize the Sushi Nami name—there are Sushi Nami kiosks in both the Sunnyside Mall in Bedford and the Pete's Frootique on Dresden. Sushi Nami Royale owner Dae C. Jon, who no longer owns the Bedford kiosk, has always planned to open a sushi restaurant; he's just been waiting to find the perfect location to house it. He's also got big business plans for the Sushi Nami empire: "Within two or three years, we're going to have at least...three or four more restaurants around the greater Halifax area—and then, we're even moving out of the province," says Jon. Sushi Nami Royale's menu is extensive, and among its offerings, it features unique fusion rolls, created exclusively for the restaurant by Jon and head chef John Sam, a 23-year veteran of the sushi business. If this all sounds a little too fancy and pricey for you, drop by the restaurant during its daily Tsu-Nami hours (3 to 5pm and 9:30pm to midnight). That's when sushi-loving penny-pinchers can order from the store's special Tsu-Nami-hour menu for 20 percent off the menu's listed prices. Learn more at www.sushinami.ca.

Shop Talk-lets

The new cafe moving into the former Vivo Bistro (Windsor and Almon) has a name: The Brooklyn Warehouse. The cafe's set to open in the next two weeks...Random Play on Barrington has moved...but not far. Over the weekend, the used CD store moved two doors over, from one side of The Pogue Fado to the other. The store's already open in its new location...The new Thai joint at 1546 Queen, Chabaa Thai Restaurant, opened for business last Saturday. Want to learn more about what they've got cookin'? Check back next week.

Email me at shoptalk@thecoast.ca. We’ll talk. About shops.

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