By Andre R. Gagne, Jane Heintzman and Christina Leadlay This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News.
Farewell to Epic Fitness
On Dec. 4, 2020, Epic Fitness closed its doors at 230 Beechwood Ave. for the last time, lamenting on its Facebook page: “We have surrendered.” Epic Fitness was the brainchild of Stephanie Karlovits, an energetic young entrepreneur who launched the business eight years ago, offering a “full service” fitness and wellness operation focused on personal training, holistic nutrition, and outdoor community events.
In her farewell message to clients, Stephanie concedes that as a small boutique business in a highly competitive industry, “we stood no chance against the pandemic.” Despite efforts to pivot during the lockdowns by offering live-streamed classes and virtual personal-training sessions, the costs of maintaining Epic’s extensive space were burdensome. When the business failed to qualify for government rent support, it was all over. “Epic was a dream come true,” says Stephanie, “but like all dreams, this one had to come to an end.”
Since the closure, many of Epic’s personal trainers have remained independently active on the virtual training circuit, including Justin Thiboutot, Kathleen Holt, Brett Patterson, Krysta Andovic and Rami Gallego: find them on Instagram or LinkedIn. Our thanks to Stephanie and her team for the lively business they brought to Beechwood for the past three years. We wish them well in their future endeavours, and a safe passage through the pandemic.
Building owner Domicile reports that the former Epic Fitness space at 230 Beechwood Ave. has now been leased to another business but declined to offer any details about the new business or its anticipated time of arrival. Stay tuned! –JH
South America comes close to home
Do you have a craving for a scrumptious, authentic arepas, but just can’t get to Venezuela to snag one? Are you now wondering: what is an arepas, anyway? Both craving and question can be answered at the new home of South American cuisine: Toasty Arepas.
Sharing space with Goodies Fine Catering at 51 Marier Ave. (goodiescatering.com), the new restaurant was born when the owners – proud Colombian Luisa García, and Goodies’ owner Pierre Mineault – realized Ottawa had nowhere for Latinos to go for something quick to eat, that little taste of tradition that reminded them of home.
“To come up with the name, we brainstormed a bunch of words and sayings, and we also asked my family members what would be a good name,” explains Luisa. “Eventually, by elimination, we decided on ‘Toasty Arepas,’ which is half English and half Spanish.”
“Arepas are corn pancakes – a staple food of South American cuisine,” she says.
With the arepas mystery solved, we asked what else was on the menu:
“Our menu is 100 per cent gluten-free, and we have vegan and vegetarian options for most items, so of course we would recommend everything on our menu. But our most popular items are the empanadas, the arepas sandwich, chicharron, the envueltos, and definitely the yucca fries and paisa bowl. They have been hits since day one!”
Toasty Arepas’s Instagram account shows mouth-watering images of arepas stuffed with all manner of ingredients, from ham and olives to sausage, black beans and cheese.
Luisa knew that restaurants are a very high-risk business with one out of five closing in the first five years (and that’s not during a global pandemic). Dipping a foot in the water instead of diving headlong into the pool seemed best. Luisa and Pierre decided to open Toasty Arepas for take-out only, with plans to eventually become a full, eat-in restaurant in the future.
“Having a take-out restaurant also allowed us to test the [concept], to see if there really was a market for our business idea,” said Luisa.
Opening as they have, in unprecedented times, their top priority was safety. To comply with provincialrestrictions, they allow only two clients at a time inside the store, and they have joined Uber Eats to provide delivery.
With social media as their main marketing outlet, Luisa and Pierre were elated when customers beganstopping by to discover what so many have always known: South American cuisine is amazing!
“We are honoured and grateful to say that the community has been very welcoming and supportive to us since we opened,” said Luisa. “It is thanks to them that the word about our restaurant spread to a lot of people.”
Toasty Arepas is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 12–8 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 12–9 p.m. Contact them at toastyarepas.com or 613–262-5238. –AG
An essential service for pet owners
Since last March, countless housebound families have reached out to acquire companion animals for comfort, distraction and a built-in incentive to exercise while the pandemic runs it course. In our own neighbourhood, numerous new furry faces have joined the (already robust) local canine population in recent months.
For first-time dog owners, the stay-at-home environment has afforded an ideal opportunity to bond with their new family member and master the basics of care, feeding and (for the brave and wise!) training. When working from home is the norm, social activities are restricted, and travel is out of the question, it’s easy to overlook one crucial resource. A dependable caregiver will be a must when holiday and business travel start up again – as they will with a vengeance, post-pandemic!
Pet boarding facilities have been an unnoticed casualty of the stay-at-home existence imposed during the pandemic. These small operators have suffered an almost total loss of business in recent months, and many have not survived.
In our community, Place for Paws Boarding Camp for Cats and Dogs has been a go-to pet sitter for many families, my own included. Throughout its two decades in business in Clarence Creek, Ont., Place for Paws has been a safe and reliable second home for furry family members. Despite the punishing blow to her business, owner Angela Zorn has soldiered on, but with only a trickle of canine and feline clients to occupy her spacious, climate-controlled kennel facility.
Angela hopes to weather the storm until life returns to normal, and she greatly appreciates interim support from regular, or prospective, clients. It’s worth considering the purchase of a Place for Paws gift certificate as a prepayment for future visits when normalcy is restored. To learn more about Place for Paws or to lend a hand with a gift certificate purchase, call Angela at 613-446-2280 or visit placeforpaws.com or Facebook.com/PlaceforPawsBoardingCamp. –JH
Bring a bit of the Caribbean home
This time of year, some of us like to escape (or dream of escaping) Ottawa’s cold and snow for warmer locales. But with international travel another victim of the pandemic, we need to find other ways to broaden our horizons. Let your tastebuds do the travelling with nearby Baccanalle restaurant (595 Montreal Rd.) as your passport to new, Caribbean-inspired flavours.
Baccanalle chef and owner Resa Solomon-St. Lewis was born in Winnipeg, Man. but has called Ottawa home since 1980. Resa has a background in chemical engineering and trained as a chef at Algonquin College. According to her website, Chef Resa has twice represented the High Commission for Trinidad and Tobago in Ottawa’s Embassy Chef Challenge, and has numerous awards to her credit.
“Baccanalle” is a play on the word “bacchanal,” meaning scandal or wild celebration in the Caribbean, where Resa’s family has roots. “I first experimented with Baccanalle in 2012,” Resa tells the New Edinburgh News in an email interview. Many readers will be familiar with Resa’s Baccanalle products from her many years at the Beechwood Market – she has been a supplier since its first days. “We love the sense of community they create [at the market],” she says.
Resa explains that when the pandemic meant her office catering business Capital Fare Café “virtually disappeared,” she turned her attention to Baccanalle. “We pivoted and brought Baccanalle from the side to the forefront, essentially building a Caribbean-inspired menu for people to enjoy and experiment with at home,” she says.
Baccanalle specializes in contemporary and traditional Caribbean and Soul food with vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic-sensitive, and low-sodium options, according to the website. All items are available on a pre-order pick-up basis.
“Our most popular items are our Ocho Jerk Chicken Feast,” Resa says. “Our patties are made from scratch and our NOLA Jazz dinner comes complete with our cornbread, Cajun beans and a spicy maple butter.” We asked the chef what item people should try. “Our Chef’s Pick Fam Packs,” says Resa, noting the family packs come with stock-the-freezer staples like pulled jerk chicken, vegan curry, and coconut rice and peas. “Perfect to pull together a great nutritious meal, quickly!” she says.
Baccanalle even has special menus available for Valentine’s Day (look for V-Day on their website), featuring special “Lockdown Love” meals kits for couples looking for a COVID-friendly way to spice things up. Order by Feb. 8 for pick-up on Feb. 12 and 13.
Resa and her Baccanalle team have also kept busy supporting the community during COVID times. “This year more than ever we have worked to support some amazing community groups like Carefor Health and Community Services, Meals for Hope and JakuKonbit,” she tells NEN. “These groups provided meals to vulnerable communities and frontline workers and we, along with other restaurants, were proud to provide meals at or near cost,” Resa says.
Resa has big plans for 2021: “The pandemic has ignited a fight-not-flight spark for me,” she says. “Inspired by my ethnic community as well as my years with farmers’ markets and artisan shows, my sister and I have created a new venture: Afrotechture. It’s a unique and exciting space to shop and discover Black Canadian artisans.” Afrotechture’s first pop-up shop will take place Feb. 7 in the ByWard Market Mall heritage building, as well as some online events. Learn more at afrotechture.com.
Baccanalle is open for pre-ordered pick-up on Thursdays and Fridays from 4–8 p.m. and Saturdays from 3–8 p.m. at 595 Montreal Rd. Find Baccanalle’s full take-out and delivery menu at baccanalle.com or call 613-859-6297 to place your order. Gift cards are also available. –CL
It’s full-on busy at Full Cycle
Amid the small businesses struggling to stay afloat as the pandemic unfolds, Full Cycle at 401 St. Laurent Blvd. stands out as an unexpected beneficiary of the restrictive, stay-at-home existence. Cycling has proven an ideal outlet for those needing distraction, exercise and relief from claustrophobic COVID-related restrictions, not to mention an environmentally-friendly transportation option year-round.
For many years, Full Cycle has been our community’s full-service resource for all things cycling-related, from the sale of bikes and equipment to repairs and regular tune-ups. During the winter months, it also offers a cross-country ski waxing service, primarily for local families as opposed to competitive skiers.
Full Cycle staffer Matti Pihlainen reports that despite the economic meltdown of 2020, the bicycle business has been booming. “Our phone didn’t stop ringing from April through August,” says Matti, adding that when staff couldn’t keep up with calls, clients had to be redirected online. The store has now beefed up its online resources, adding a LiveChat function to handle questions and requests from clients.
To Matti’s surprise, new bike purchases are already on an upswing as cyclists move swiftly to “to get ahead of the curve” and secure their wheels before spring. At the same time, the popularity of “fat bikes” has soared this winter, to the point that they’ve become virtually unattainable across Canada. With super-sized tires designed to conquer packed snow, fat bikes are the go-to option for winter conditions, and now a ubiquitous presence on trails and roads throughout the region.
And speaking of trails, Matti and his team are delighted by the recent east-end extension of the multi-use ski-, walking-, snowshoeing and fat-biking trail along the Ottawa River. Ski Heritage East now extends from the Aviation Museum all the way to Trim Road. Visit skiheritageeast.ca/wpshe for details and up to date trail conditions.
Full Cycle has been diligent about COVID-19 protocols in all its operations, including curbside drop-off and pick-up. While the lockdown lasts, only the service door will be open for bike repair clients: you’ll need to call in advance (613-741-2443) to arrange a drop-off or pick-up. And of course, you’ll need to be masked for any interaction with staff. Visit fullcycle.ca for details.
When NEN asked whether Full Cycle would welcome any form of community support during the pandemic, Matti generously declined, suggesting that residents instead reach out to their favourite coffee shops and eateries who have not fared so well! –JH
Relief for pandemic pains
Throughout the pandemic, Bellefleur Physiotherapy has remained open for in-person service at 2 Beechwood Ave. (corner of Beechwood and the Vanier Parkway).
“Since we’re regulated healthcare professionals, we’re considered an essential service,” explains Jason Bellefleur, president of the operation he co-owns with his brother Dave Bellefleur. However, Jason adds: “we realized that some people may be uncomfortable going out in the current environment, so we’ve been offering virtual services since last April, and continue to do so.” Visit bellefleurphysio.com to learn more about or to schedule virtual consultations.
Bellefleur physiotherapists treat a broad spectrum of painful and disabling conditions: arthritis, repetitive strain injuries, sports injuries, concussion, tendonitis, neck-, shoulder- and lower-back pain, vertigo, chronic pain syndrome, and more.
Few would dispute that the pandemic has been a pain in the neck; in fact, that is literally true. “The biggest problems we’ve encountered during the pandemic are posture-related symptoms that people are suffering as a result of working from home,” says Jason. Cases of neck, shoulder and low-back pain have surged as a consequence of the sedentary routine.
Apart from the stresses of long hours of screen-time, “the work space, if there is a specific work space at all, may not be properly set up to minimize prolonged strains on muscles and joints,” says Jason, “and since people aren’t commuting to work, they aren’t moving around as often, which compounds the effects.”
Jason has simple advice for staying healthy and pain-free through the pandemic: “Keep moving!” And if you do develop aches and pains, don’t let symptoms linger before reaching out for professional assistance. “We can help, whether it’s in-person or virtually, and the quicker we get started, the quicker we can get over the problem at hand.”
There are currently two physiotherapists working at Bellefleur’s Beechwood location, with a third expected to come on board very soon. Natasha Eddie has specialized training in techniques to handle the issues most prevalent in the pandemic. She is experienced in the use of the McKenzie method for treating neck- and lower-back conditions and offers acupuncture for pain control.
Jason’s brother Dave Bellefleur, company co-owner and clinical director for Beechwood, is a specialist in dry needling, a highly effective (if not always comfortable!) technique for releasing tight muscles. Dave also has extensive experience working with seniors, and in the treatment of golf and running injuries. Sophie Drouin, a recent University of Ottawa graduate, is expected to join the team in the next few weeks.
The Bellefleur Physiotherapy clinic is open from 12–8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, and from 8 a.m.– 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Visit bellefleurphysio.com or call 613-695-7852 for more information or to schedule an appointment. –JH
New year, new businesses
Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, 2021 promises the anticipated arrival of Mr. Luko: The Gourmandise and Coffee Place. Mr. Luko will occupy the former quarters of long-running Second Cup, which closed its doors at 1 Springfield Rd. late last fall. We understand that the new café is a spinoff from a Montreal-based operation, and will feature a variety of specialty foods, including gelato. Stay tuned for more details once Mr. Luko is up and running!
Beer lovers will be happy to hear that Good Prospects Brewing Company has officially opened at 411 St Laurent Blvd. (goodprospects.ca 613-315-3757). Curb-side pick-up launched on Jan. 29. NEN hopes to bring more details about this new business in our April edition!
Meanwhile, Minto’s Kevin Harper confirms that the LCBO is on track to complete its new outlet in Minto Beechwood by the end of March 2021 and expects to open its doors in early April.
And of note, ModBox’s André Cloutier reports that owing to the continuing uncertainties associated with the pandemic, “timelines for the commercial spaces [at St. Charles Market] have been shelved for the time being.” –JH
Patio heaters pilfered
According to a recent Ottawa Citizen article, three outdoor patio heaters were stolen from Ola Cocina on Barrette Street in the course of just a few weeks, inflicting yet another cruel blow to Donna Chevrier’s local business. Nearby Jasper Restaurant at Beechwood and Charlevoix reportedly met the same fate, losing a trio of heaters from its outdoor patio.
As both Donna’s taqueria is dependent on take-out orders to stay afloat during the lockdown, the heaters had been installed for the benefit of clients lining up to collect their orders. But not only did the thefts foil her attempt to go the extra mile for customers, the chances of securing a replacement may be slim, as patio heaters have been such a “hot commodity” during the pandemic.
As a community, let’s do what we can to compensate for these mean-spirited acts by making a special effort to support Ola Cocina, Jasper and all our other struggling local businesses, and to help them through this long ordeal to the return of brighter days. -JH