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, October 25, 2007

The salon up there

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 3:04 PM

In the immortal words of the Friendly Giant: look up; look way up. Otherwise, you might miss checking out Spring Garden's latest salon. A Step Up Hair Design and Day Spa, located at 5982 Spring Garden, makes its home high above street level. It's nestled in the third floor of the building that houses the Dairy Deli. (Don't panic, income-tax enthusiasts—the salon hasn't displaced tax-service provider Tax Express; both businesses are sharing a store space. As salon esthetician and co-cordinator Shelley LeBlonc puts it, "You can get your hair done, your nails done, your taxes done.") The salon opened about a month ago and offers services that fulfill pretty much every beauty need you can think up—from hair cuts and colouring, to massages and body-art application. (Yearning for your own tooth jewel? They've got 'em.) Jillian Harnish, the salon's other co-coordinator, has been a stylist for seven years and has wanted to start her own salon for ages. "What I like about being a stylist is that it's an ever-changing industry—you always are learning...you never have the same day," she says. A Step Up is aiming to provide patrons with a comfortable, personalized experience. For now, Harnish and LeBlonc are the only staff working at the salon, which means beauty-seekers won't have to deal with a revolving line-up of stylists. "You can build a relationship here," says Harnish. And if you're a fan of the TIGI line of hair and beauty products (described by LeBlonc as "funky" and "alternative"), you're in luck—A Step Up will be using TIGI products exclusively. Still not won over? Maybe the salon's affordable prices and 15percent student discount will convince you to give it a whirl. Plus, trekking up the stairs to the salon will help you work those calves. Call the salon at 444-3039.

If you don’t send me shop news, I’ll have to write about something else. It could be yo momma. Email shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Chamber of Commerce kudos (the best kind!)

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 8:04 AM

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for the 2008 Halifax Business awards. The awards will be handed out on January 31, at a sure-to-be-fancy soiree at the World Trade and Convention Centre. Finalists up for small business of the year include eco-friendly property inspectors ECCO Environmental Consulting and Contracting Inc., local beer-makers Garrison Brewing Co., the Hamachi Group of Restaurants, Noble Grape Urban Winery and ESL institute the Canadian Language Learning College. Find more nominees at www.halifaxchamber.com.

If you don’t send me shop news, I’ll have to write about something else. It could be yo momma. Email shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Call it Bellissimabby's?

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 8:03 AM

Halifax decorating institution Abby's Fabric Shoppe closed its doors in the Hydrostone on September 22. Don't fret, though: The shop's new owner, Karyn McCombe, began the process of transferring Abby's merchandise over to its new home, inside McCombe's shop, Bellissimo! (2743 Agricola), the very next day. After spending 28 years working in the custom drape and decorating business, Linda Shaffner, the owner of Abby's, decided to retire. McCombe thought the lovely drapery and upholstery fabrics available at Abby's would mesh well with Bellissimo!'s antique European furniture and lighting and newer home decor items. "They're complementary businesses," she says. As a division within Bellissimo!, Abby's will continue to specialize in custom-made drapes, blinds, bedding, pillows and slipcovers. The goal of Bellissimo! is to provide "decorative finds for beautiful living," points out McCombe. Incorporating Abby's into the store helps them do this even more effectively. Koren and Sacha, two long-standing, fabric-savvy members of the Abby's staff, have also come with the store inventory to Bellissimo! And all of the fabrics from Abby's have come with them. Even though Abby's is now a division within Bellissimo!, it'll keep its operating name. Reach Bellissimo! (and Abby's) at 423-6014.

If you don't send me shop news, I'll have to write about something else. It could be yo momma. Email shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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More Mary's...and more milkshakes!

T.C. Demaresq browses for business news

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 8:01 AM

Can't get enough of Mary's Place Cafe (2752 Robie)? That's perfectly understandable. Happily, it just got a whole lot easier to satisfy your Mary's passion—the restaurant has extended its hours and is now open from 7am to 7:30pm, every day except Sunday. (They used to close up shop at 6pm). Why the new hours? Customer demand, says owner and chef Roy Khoury. To go with its new supper hours, the cafe has also expanded its menu, adding more supper-appropriate options. Most significantly, the restaurant's added about 20 new items to its vegan menu and is now offering a Middle-Eastern vegan combo—thrifty vegans can get three items from the combo menu's extensive list, plus coffee and a small juice, for $7. The yummy-sounding options on the menu include manakeesh, garlic homefries, vegan chili, grape leaves and other belly pleasers; vegan milkshakes are also now available. And all the food at Mary's is homemade, with Khoury working his magic as head chef more than 12 hours per day. Khoury, originally from Syria, specializes in Syrian Middle-Eastern eats. But his chocolate-chip pancakes are pretty good, too—so it's handy the restaurant is still running its much-loved breakfast club program, which gives anyone who buys nine breakfasts at Mary's and gets their club card stamped a 10th breakfast free. (Huzzah!) Call Mary's at 454-2558.

If you don't send me shop news, I'll have to write about something else. It could be yo momma. Email shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spyin' the Brian

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2007 at 8:20 AM

Brian Mulroney at The Book Room? Could it be the former PM, toting his bulky memoirs in which he slams Pierre Trudeau and others, isn't drawing a crowd in Halifax? Quite the opposite, says Dawn Underwood, sales associate at the store. "The tickets have been going like hotcakes," she reports, adding about half the tickets have been snapped up already. Offering free tickets for Book Room readings is the norm, according to Underwood, because it prevents people showing up in droves at the door and having nowhere to sit. The store has already moved the event from a smaller space to the Imperial Room, which accommodates up to 450 people, at the Lord Nelson Hotel. "Some people are probably expecting a bit of a show," Underwood says. "He's never been shy." Nor is former PM Jean Chrétien, whose memoirs—complete with swipe at Paul Martin (his are due next year)—came out in the last couple of weeks. Underwood isn't sure if Chrétien could pack 'em in because there's "not as much water under the bridge. Mulroney is always popping in and out of the public eye."

Artistic differences

Speaking of signs, subtle signs of change at the Khyber, just down Barrington from The Book Room, may have gone unnoticed by most. The Khyber is known now as, and in full, The Khyber Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Gone is the "Centre for the Arts" label. Though not a business, the not-for-profit Khyber case demonstrates how, in marketing parlance, that kind of name change represents one small part of a re-branding strategy. New-ish (he started this past June) artistic director Brian MacNevin put the name change into effect after noticing, "In our memorandum of association we're called the Khyber Arts Society. Somewhere along the way "Centre for the Arts' was tacked on. But it's nowhere written down in our legal documents," he says. MacNevin points out that ICAs exist all over North America and Europe and, as a rule, these organizations host visual art, theatre, literary, film/video events under one roof—always with "sensitivity to all the different programming that goes on in the building at any given time." MacNevin also reconfigured the Khyber's logo, dropping the line drawing of the turret and going with the capital K. "I didn't want our name associated so literally with a graphic of the front of the building." Currently, HRM owns the building and the Khyber Arts Society rents out the Ballroom Gallery and office space, but MacNevin continues to negotiate with city staff about how to bring programming to the other spaces (namely the oh-so-silent bar and the darkened Turret Room) while respecting HRM's liability concerns.

CEED money

The Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development's (CEED) recently gave some smart businesses due recognition. The organization handed out awards in two categories: Students in Business Program and Nova Scotia Seed Capital Program—two programs CEED funds. According to Gary Peitzsche, CEED loans officer, "Each of the award-winners saw something lacking in their community or area, and started their business to fill that need. For example, Janet Ozon started the Adelaide Respite Inn as a result of her experiences with the health care system while her mother was dying of cancer." The Adelaide Respite Inn is in Waverly and received the Nova Scotia Seed Capital Program for Innovation. There was a tie for the Community Impact Award between Halifax-based Coastal Trilling Reforestation, owned by Mark Chisolm, and East Coast Outfitters, Lower Prospect, owned by David Adler. Peitzsche says Coastal Trilling "works to replant forest that has been lost through logging, extreme weather, disease, etc. throughout Nova Scotia." This year, Coastal Trilling has planted 15,000 trees in Point Pleasant Park, in addition to "eight million seedlings planted to date" throughout the province. According to Peitzsche, CEED also liked that Coastal Trilling hires some 52 students each summer. The Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to Matthew Ingraham of Mathew Ingraham Productions in Sydney, Cape Breton. Finally, closer to home, Talay Thai (specifically Jimmy and Kim Dao) won the Business of the Year Award.

Let's go streaking

Environmentally based businesses create opportunities everywhere. Norna O'Brien runs recently launched Streak Free Canada from her home in Lower Sackville and has distributors and demonstrators right across the country. The product: cloths made from "microfibre" polyester. They are, according to the information at streakfree.ca, "half of the thickness of silk and 100 times finer than a human hair. A micro-fibre is the tiniest man-made fibre ever created. The tiny fibres are pressed and split into 16 sections with 16 intervals." In short, that's fine work. "I was given one by a friend and when I saw how well they cleaned and how easily with just hot water, I found out where they came from and here I am," explains O'Brien. You read right: these cloths don't need cleansers for mirrors, windows, floors: even the burnt rubber off your motorcyle's exhaust pipe! Email info@streakfree.ca.

Redecorate this column. Email shoptalk@thecoast.ca with your hot biz tips.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Handmade heaven

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2007 at 1:57 PM

Store-owners talk a good game about their stores being friendly and welcoming. But artisan Chara Kingston is working to make her new shop, the Love Me Boutique (1539 Birmingham), literally feel like home. "It's set up like an apartment," says Kingston. "People who come through our door...are our guests. They can come, they can sit down; we'll have a sofa, we'll have magazines." The faux-apartment will be filled with a variety of apartment-friendly supplies—everything from soap and candles to dishes, books, music, art, and clothing for men, women and children. And all the shop's products are handmade by Canadian artisans and independent artists; info will be displayed in the boutique about the artisans it features. For the last few weeks, Kingston's been watching all the nifty inventory she ordered finally arrive. "It's been really exciting for me because I've been able to open boxes, and it's like Christmas," she says. Kingston ran her own accessories business, Simply C Designs, for two years, selling her work at the Farmer's Market and other craft fairs, but this is the first shop she's owned. She'll showcase some of her own work at Love Me, but only occasionally. "I want it to necessarily be a vehicle to sell my own work. I want it to be a vehicle to educate people...about artisan-made products." Bonus: The shop's eco-friendly. And men can shop there, while still leaving their dude-cred intact; there are "cheeky" aristan-made boxers for sale, plastered with pics of manly tractors and moose. The shop opens this Saturday. Give it a ring at 444-3668.

Auto repair for the people

Are you having a muffler emergency? Head to the North End—Elie Hoyeck has your back. Hoyeck's new shop, the Gottingen St. Auto Corner opened for business last week, at 2019 Gottingen. Hoyeck's been in the car game for ages; he started his first business, the Dartmouth Repot Auto Centre, about 10 years ago. "I like working on cars. And it's a good way to make a living, if you're going to be honest with people," says Hoyeck. He'll be handling some sales and appraisals but the Auto Centre's main focus will be providing complete auto service. Right now, the shop has a couple hoists and a few mechanics working there. But soon, Hoyeck plans to have seven hoists in operation and to assemble a team of 18 mechanics. "This is where the customer is something," adds Hoyeck, who'll be at the shop full-time. Major renovations have been done to the space, which was formerly the home of Enterprise Rent-A-Car—all the hoists had to be brought in and installed, and the space was painted. "There was nothing here but a bunch of bricks," says Hoyeck. The shop'll be open every day, from 8am to 8pm and the Auto Corner also offers a free shuttle service—so if you have to leave your car there, Hoyeck and company will get you where you need to go. Contact the shop at 421-5557.

Woe for Whiskey's

Whiskey's Lounge in Dartmouth wants to rock and roll a little longer every night, but the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal still says it can't. According to the terms of its liquor license, Whiskey's (29 Portland) is only allowed to have live entertainment playing until 9pm. After that, the pub can only play "recorded background music." Looking to change that, Whiskey's owner Jack Toulany applied to the provincial Alcohol and Gaming division in April 2006, in hopes of obtaining unrestricted entertainment privileges, which would allow the restaurant to keep the music going until its 2am close. Customers and supporters of Whiskey's signed a petition in favour of the application; residents from a nearby condo complex spoke out against it. The request was ultimately denied, as was a recent appeal of the decision. The reasoning: taking away the current limitations on entertainment at Whiskey's could interfere with the right to "quiet enjoyment" by "neighbouring properties." But relatively close-by Celtic Corner is permitted to have music until 2am points out, Toulany. "We like to compete with other bars around us." Plus, he says, lots of noise in the area is unfairly attributed to Whiskey's. He's unhappy with the decision. When he has a popular act booked, the place is packed from 5pm until 9pm," says Toulany. "After 9pm, everybody goes...the only entertainment we have for the customer is the poker machine." Despite the recent disappointment, Toulany plans to keep trying to pump up the volume. "We're going to keep applying every year," he says.

Chow down, Cheelin-style

Some sweet news for fans of Cheelin Restaurant's (1496 Lower Water) yummy Chinese eats (also available every week at the Farmer's Market): Cheelin has opened a new take-out counter in the Dalhousie Grad House, in the spot formerly occupied by Best Choice Chinese Food. The counter will be open Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 4pm. Expect fare similar to that available at the Cheelin stand at the Saturday market—dumplings, egg rolls, vegetables and noodles—plus revolving specials and vegetarian dishes. You can also expect reasonable prices—customers can pick up one side for $3 (tax included), or a whole meal for $7. All the food at the counter is prepared at Cheelin's Water Street location. (If food runs out, the main restaurant ships more over right away.) The original Cheelin can be contacted at 422-2252.

Let’s do some shop talkin’. (But don’t go telling me lies.) Drop me a line at shoptalk@thecoast.ca

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mill's makeover, makeover

Browsing for business news

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Spring Garden area shoppers may have noticed that the huge wooden panels that covered the Mills Brothers storefront for most of the summer have finally been taken down. So, what was going on behind them? The store's been undergoing massive renovations. Mills now has a brand-new front entrance and windows—and that fancy new door's just a harbinger of the fancy new Mills Brothers you'll find behind it. The store's beauty section is being expanded and will boast 30 new lines of cosmetic and beauty products, including NARS Cosmetics, Bumble and Bumble, and Leaf & Rusher. "It's just a nice expansion to the business," says Mills general manager Kathryn Mader. Mills also has a new cappuccino bar, complete with a flat-screen TV, giving less enthusiastic shoppers a place to chill out and regroup as they wait for more zealous companions. And while the Mills Brothers men's shop is gone now, it'll soon be even easier for fashion-minded men to mosey over to next-door neighbour Duggers, as a handy throughway is currently being installed, connecting the two stores. A new wheelchair lift is also on its way. The store was purchased by a new owner, local business mogul Mickey MacDonald, back in March and most of the renovations should be complete in the next few weeks. Contact Mills at 1-800-465-1919.

Penhorn to Portland Street

If you've been pining for Petsters, the locally owned pet shop that left Penhorn Mall last June, head to 650 Portland. Petsters re-opened there on September 10. The Penhorn mall is "getting a little bare," points out Petsters owner Debbie Saunders. "In order to survive, we had to leave." Fittingly, the new location used to be a vet clinic. And, since the new Petsters is close to the old one, the store's diehard customers will still be able to easily access it. The new space also fulfills an even more important requirement: "We have our own entrance, which allows animals to come in and out as they please...unlike up on the mall, you weren't allowed to bring your animal in," says Saunders. The store carries the standard pet-store fare, including reptiles, dogs, cats and fish—and supplies for each—as well as a host of rodents, including hamsters, mice and rats; all the rodents are bred by Petsters staff. The shop aims to offer customers a personalized pet-store-going experience. "It's almost like a family-run feeling. We know our customers when they come in," says Saunders. At the new location, expect the same "one-on-one appeal," along with new dog rooms and fish tanks, and an expanded inventory of terrariums, aquariums and exotic pet supplies. And circle October 27 on your calendar now.

New owner, same wash

The Metro Dog Wash (6021 Cunard) has a new owner. If you're one of the shop's loyal dog-washers, don't worry: Aline Oicle the new owner in question, doesn't plan to change much. She recently purchased the shop from Terri Henson, who started the dog wash in May 2006. "It's really neat, the way it's all set up—she did a really good job," says Oicle. "Everything works just fine the way it is, so I think I'll just keep everything going the same." The shop has several self-service bath stations and provides dog-washers with shampoos, brushes, towels, a tub, and a dryer; all owners need to bring is a dirty dog and manpower (which, incidentally, would be an excellent name for a punk band.) Full grooming services are also available intermittently throughout the week, and every second Saturday; the shop's open 11am to 7pm Tuesday to Thursday, and 10am to 5pm Friday to Sunday. While Oicle doesn't want to mess with the store's set-up, she does have a few potential ideas for the shop's future. "Nothing's definite, though. I'm just trying to get in the swing of things here," she says. Give her a warm welcome at 422-9364.

Carnival time?

Bernard Smith has big dreams for Spring Garden Road in the summer of 2008. Big, fun-sounding dreams. He wants to shut down traffic on the street, from Queen to South Park, for an entire month, in either July or August. "It's basically to allow the restaurants to get out on the streets," says Smith, the manager of the Spring Garden Road Area Business Association. "And it's really to give the place a bit of a carnival atmosphere." Smith has discussed the idea "briefly" with the city, but hasn't submitted a formal proposal yet. And he's fully aware of all the factors that have to be considered before such a plan can go ahead: "The question of re-routing transit, ensuring that emergency vehicles can access all the various points the question of deliveries." Right now, the plan's hypothetical. "We'd have to make sure that the bulk of the merchants wanted to do it, too," Smith points out. Call the business association at 423-3751.

Dodo's extinct?

Some sad Quinpool news—by all appearances, Dodo's Café and Barbeque has closed. The restaurant hasn't been open for the last couple weeks, though there's been no official confirmation yet. (Here's hoping it's temporary and that the great hummus and baba ghanouj aren't gone for good. Sigh.)

Do you have more ideas for my cat’s Halloween duds? Or news about your shop? Drop me a line at shoptalk@thecoast.ca.

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Vol 28, No 1
July 9, 2020

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