From the forest to the farmers’ market

Local artist Theresa Lee Capell, creator of Miss Foxine jewelry, crafts wearable art that has been recognized internationally.

They are jewels fit for a fairy — delicate beads, sparkly chains, tree bark and even butterfly wings. The Miss Foxine jewelry stand at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market will make you feel like you are in a fantasy world.

Theresa Lee Capell, the creator of Miss Foxine, stands smiling as shoppers pass by and admire her gorgeous handmade jewelry.

The 25-year-old NSCAD University graduate is inspired by the beauty of nature. As a child Capell would often venture into the woods at her home in Aylesford, N.S., collecting sticks and leaves to create jewelry herself.

“I used to go off into the woods and come back with pine cones and leaves and make them into crowns or jewelry or this little miniature dress form where I would pin the leaves and flowers to it and kind of daydream as a kid thinking ‘oh maybe fairies would wear this.’”

Capell has taken her daydreams and turned them into a reality. She makes her jewelry at her studio in her apartment in Lacewood.

Fairy tales and children’s stories also inspire Capell’s pieces. Her favourite one is Peter Pan.

“I love the idea of flying away into a different land where you can create your own world. That’s kind of the theme I try to put into my work to give it a Neverland kind of feel where the wearer can buy something and create their own story with it.”

Capell’s nature-inspired pieces, such as birch bark earrings, are made from materials she finds in the woods at her family home. She also digs through antique stores finding many unique baubles to turn into the centre point for a piece.

Capell also incorporates shells, pine cones, lavender, sea glass and butterfly wings into her work. Though fear not, Capell is not tearing the wings off of butterflies she finds.

“I have a friend who works at a conservatory and when the butterflies shed their wings naturally she will collect those and send them to me and I will send 20 per cent of the money made from those pieces back to the conservatory.”

Each piece is handmade by Capell. Depending on the complexity of the jewelry Capell will spend up to three hours on one piece, though her cheaper necklaces and earrings will take her under an hour.

Capell showcases her jewelry in antique picture frames and hangs delicate necklaces from tiny trees at her stand at the market every weekend.

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When Capell is not at the market she is working at her part-time job at Banana Republic at the Halifax Shopping Centre. She hopes that her jewelry business will one day be her full-time job.

Since starting at the market four years ago, Capell has gotten a lot closer to reaching that goal. Due to her strong presence on various social media outlets, an agent who works backstage at award shows invited her to fly to Hollywood and showcase her work at last year’s Golden Globes Awards.

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” says Capell, “I thought it was a scam but I got my brother to look at the email and research it and we found out it was legitimate so I messaged her back.”

She set up a booth, similar to her stand at the market, backstage at the Golden Globes where various celebrities would walk by and admire her work.

“The event was very high strung. Whenever a celebrity would come in you would feel very excited and a little shy.”

Capell says it was nerve wracking because if the celebrities wore her jewelry and told their friends about her work then she would be prompted on a much larger scale.

“They are pretty important people and they can tell people about my work through word of mouth and that was a really big thing for me,” says Capell. “Mary J. Blige was really nice, she especially loved my pieces with the butterfly wings. She loved the idea of it being so natural and just presenting the beauty that was already there.”

Since the event, sales have gone up quite a bit. Capell has a few designs in boutiques throughout Halifax and her sales on Etsy have gone up.

Capell wants to have a boutique of her own in Halifax and some day open a second one in Los Angeles. She recently began designing gowns and hopes to incorporate them into the Miss Foxine line.

“I’m just trying to figure out where to invest my money at the moment,” explains Capell. She has been offered to go back to L.A for more backstage events. Capell hopes to design more dresses before returning to Hollywood.

“I’m just taking it day by day right now,” says Capell.

Perhaps one day we will see her dresses walking down the red carpet capturing the same elegant and whimsical style that is in her jewelry.

Small stores stay open during storms

While many stores decided to close for the day during Sunday’s snowstorm, Jubilee Junction and Triple A convenience stores chose to stay open for those in need of supplies and snacks.

As a winter snowstorm rages and the snow continues to pile up outside, Elias Habib welcomes customers at his store in south-end Halifax.

“It’s just a regular work day,” ​said Habib, owner of Jubilee Junction, a dairy bar and convenience store on Jubilee Road.

Halifax suffered another snowstorm on Sunday, adding 15 to 30 centimetres to the remaining ice and snow from previous storms this winter. Because of the dangerous driving conditions, many businesses shut down for the day, including the Halifax Shopping Centre and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. But many small business owners like Habib chose to stay open.

Habib standing behind the counter at Jubilee Junction waiting for customers. (Photo: Teri Boates)
Habib standing behind the counter at Jubilee Junction waiting for customers. (Photo: Teri Boates)

“If you live close enough and can open, open,” he said.

Habib says that how busy his store gets during storms depends on how quickly the roads and sidewalks are cleared, and until people are able to drive safely, the store only receives foot traffic.

“You’re going to get busy from people that live right next door to you because they don’t really want to go too far, but for anybody to hop in their vehicle … if it’s not safe for them to be on the road, it’s better just to stay home,” said Habib.

Habib drives himself to work every day from his downtown Dartmouth home in a 4×4 vehicle in order to get to work on time regardless of the weather.

Also located and open on Jubilee Road is Triple A, a family-owned convenience store, pizzeria and mini-bakery frequented by students living in the nearby area who use walking as their main mode of transportation.

“We know what students go through,” said Rita Amyoony, owner of Triple A Convenience. “Most students don’t have a car, they all walk. So for them we remain open.”

Jubilee Junction open and ready for business during Halifax's snowstorm on Sunday. (Photo: Teri Boates)
Jubilee Junction open and ready for business during Halifax’s snowstorm on Sunday. (Photo: Teri Boates)

Both stores were open during their regular hours through Sunday’s storm (Jubilee Junction: 8:30am-12:00am, Triple A: 9:00am-12:00am) so that people within walking distance could purchase supplies and snack foods, a bestseller during snowstorms. “Chips and pop,” said Habib. “We sell more snacks.”

Jubilee Junction and Triple A are open every day and plan on staying open even if Halifax is hit with another major storm before the winter is over.

Amyoony recognizes that there are many students living in the neighbourhood by her store, and being the mother of four students herself, she says that she likes knowing that they are being taken care of.

As long as the students are happy and satisfied,” said Amyoony. “It’s called a convenience store, right?”

Souls Harbour soup kitchen plans for new facilities

Drop-in centre Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in the north end will begin preparing for renovations to its commercial-sized kitchen on Wednesday.

Ken and Michelle Porter, founders of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, look forward to demolishing the vibrant green and blue cupboards in the kitchen of their drop-in centre. The outdated stove and family-sized fridge will follow shortly after.

Souls Harbour provides free meals for low-income members of the community. It won the $100,000 grand prize for a kitchen renovation through a 2015 community fund competition, hosted by the insurance company Aviva.

On average the team of paid staff and volunteers serve 100 meals per day, with that number spiking between 300 and 400 during special occasions. A commercial-sized kitchen will replace the currently cramped quarters, allowing Souls Harbour to increase the quality and quantity of its meals.

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“Technically, renovations start [Wednesday],” said Michelle. “That’s when the initial measurements will be taken.”

Foster MacKenzie, architect and co-founder of Harvey and MacKenzie Ltd., will take measurements of the kitchen. When designing the layout for the new kitchen, these measurements will act as a rough perimeter.

MacKenzie sought the input of Joe George, a commercial kitchen consultant, to help with the design. Both are volunteering their time for this project.

“I took a run down there a few weeks ago,” said George. “I think we can provide them with a good layout and new equipment.”

Michelle says Souls Harbour is in desperate need of new facilities.

“We have one huge pot that takes two to three hours just to boil water,” Michelle Porter said of the equipment used to prepare meals each week from Monday to Friday.

Expanding galley kitchen

Along with purchasing new equipment — such as a stainless steel dishwasher, range stove and new exhaust system — George is also looking to expand the size of the cramped, galley kitchen.

The Porters would like to knock out the wall separating Ken’s office and the kitchen, and turn the space into a walk-in freezer.

Of course, that’s if the building co-operates.

Michelle admits $100,000 sounds like a big budget. “But the building itself is quite old,” she said, “and there are always things you don’t expect.”

George agrees that expanding the kitchen will depend on what obstacles they run up against once demolition starts.

The Porters will worry about potential bumps in the road as they come along. For now it’s time to celebrate. Michelle has planned a kitchen party at Souls Harbour this Saturday, with performances from musicians Wendy MacIsaac and Brad Davidge.

“It’s supposed to be a celebration!” said Michelle.

She is hopeful that the commercial kitchen installations will be finished by mid fall.

Tuning up for the spring thaw

Spring is on its way – hopefully. Halifax cyclists and cycle shops are looking ahead to a busy season of bike repairs.

With winter weather still pummelling the peninsula it seems like spring is far off on the horizon. Despite the unco-operative weather, cycle shops and bike enthusiasts around the city are waiting with anticipation for the first taste of warm weather. In fact, it’s coming up to the time of year where many cyclists start to drop their bikes off at shops in the city for a well needed spring checkup.

Alex McOuat, a bike mechanic at Ideal Bikes on Barrington Street, says the big rush of people coming in to get their bikes repaired is weather dependent.

“As soon as we get a few nice days in a row we see a huge influx of people bringing in their bikes to get tuned up,” he says. “Just when we had a warm day last week I had a few people bring in their bikes to get checked out.”

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Alex McOuat, bike mechanic at Ideal Bikes (Photo by Mitchell Mullen)

The cost of getting a bike tuned up is around $50 at most shops in the city. McOuat says safety isn’t the only reason why people  drop their bikes off.

“It just makes riding your bike so much better, especially on the first ride after a long winter like this one has been,” he says.

With the constant snowfall, slush storms, uncleared sidewalks, roads and bike lanes, there are bikes around the city that have been abandoned to snow banks and left to rust. McOuat says that he’s definitely seen a few come to the workshop while he’s been working.

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Bikes in the workshop at Ideal Bikes. (Photo by Mitchell Mullen)

“We’ve had a few come in that have been left completely for a winter and the person wants it fixed because of a sentimental attachment. For that it’s usually a whole overhaul of the bike, if it’s completely rusted. As long as the frame is OK you can get all the … pieces to put it back together,” he says.

To cyclist and University of King’s College student Ryan Butt, there’s no excuse for having an out-of-order bike by the time better weather rolls around.

“Don’t spare expense,” Butt says. “If your bike needs the repairs just spend the money to get them. It’s worth it.”

Butt is an avid bike enthusiast. Having worked at a bike shop himself, he knows a thing or two about when and where people should be getting their bikes fixed.

“I think it’s important around this time of year for people to keep going to local bike shops like Cyclesmith, Halifax Cycle, Ideal Bikes. They all have friendly, passionate people who really know what they’re doing and are there to help,” he says.

Butt, like the rest of Halifax’s savvy cyclists, is just waiting for that first day of spring.

“I’m really anticipating the good weather,” he says. “It’ll be good to get back out there with a bike I know will work.”

HeadsUp app wins $25,000 at Canadian Business Model Competition

An app that notifies customers of estimated arrival times, location of deliveries and late employees through text messaging won the first place prize of $25,000 at the Canadian Business Model Competition Saturday.

An application that improves communication between customers and service companies won the first place prize of $25,000 at the final round of the Canadian Business Model Competition (CBMC) at Dalhousie University Saturday.

HeadsUp notifies customers of estimated arrival times, location of deliveries, and late employees through text messaging. Developed by Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper and Dimitry Galamiyev from the University of Waterloo, the app also allows for customers to give instant feedback to businesses the minute the employee has left their home.

“I’m super excited,” said 22-year-old Reid, the business developer of the team. “Right now we have a couple pilot projects we’re going to set up, so we’re probably going to spend the money on hiring people to help us get to where we want to be faster.”

Reid said the app would work with Google Maps to allow for a non-invasive vehicle tracking system.

Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper, and Dimitry Galamiyev, answer questions from the judges after their presentation. (Photo by: Sydney Jones)
Michael Reid, Jeremy Tupper and Dimitry Galamiyev face the judges for questions after their presentation. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“We’re currently working with a number of companies to put these tracking devices in the reps’ cars, and then we’re going to be sending the text messages with the ETA times as well as feedback messages to gauge responses,” he said.

In addition to the cash prize provided by Deloitte Canada, the developers of HeadsUp have qualified for a spot at the International Business Model Competition, which takes place on May 1-2 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Between 40 and 48 teams from over 30 countries are selected to compete at the international competition. This will be the second year a Canadian team has competed at the international level.

Dalhousie has been hosting the CBMC since 2013. Thomas Battle, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, said the competition has seen a dramatic increase in both quality of presentations and number of competitors since it began.

“The first year we did it we had five Dalhousie teams…last year we had 17 teams from 10 to 12 schools, and this year we have 30 teams from over 20 schools across Canada,” said Battle.

On Saturday, two other teams were awarded with cash prizes. Ourotech, a three-dimensional printer for hospitals developed by Duleek Ranatunga and Zain Roohi, won the second place prize of $15,000.

Developed by Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan, Intelligent Site Innovations, which proposed an automated system to replace human flaggers on construction sites, finished in third place and was awarded a $10,000 prize.

Of the six teams that competed in the final round, only two were from universities in Nova Scotia.

Shanti Hot Yoga brings third studio to Halifax

Shanti Hot Yoga will be opening a studio on Spring Garden Road in July.

Shanti Hot Yoga is preparing to open its third studio in Halifax in July, and its first on the peninsula.

Shanti Hot Yoga first opened its doors in Dartmouth, N.S. in 2010. As it gained popularity, Don MacGillivary and his wife Uriel decided to open another studio in Bedford, N.S. in 2013. Now they are getting ready to open their third studio which will be located on Spring Garden road beside Lululemon.

MacGillivary says he and his wife decided to open their third studio so they could reach all demographics in the downtown area.

“Whether it’s a student who lives in Dartmouth and goes to school in Halifax, or the person in the workforce who lives in suburbia but works in the downtown core, it allows for a lot more flexibility,” said MacGillivary.

The new studio in Halifax will be smaller than the current studios, which means Don and his wife are considering cutting out pre-natal classes, as well as the mother and baby classes. The classes will still be offered at both their other locations.

Teaching positions for the new Halifax location will first be offered to staff currently working for Shanti Hot Yoga who are willing to take on more classes. However, MacGillivary expects the Halifax studio to be the busiest of the three and they will have to hire more teachers.

A Vinyasa class being held in the hot room at Shanti Hot Yoga's Dartmouth, N.S. studio. (photo: Katie Preeper)
A Vinyasa class being held in the hot room at Shanti Hot Yoga’s Dartmouth, N.S. studio. (Photo: Katie Preeper)

Shanti Hot Yoga’s Halifax studio will be located beside Lululemon and Serpentine studios.

“Ultimately, I think the effect of Shanti Hot Yoga opening another studio on Spring Garden will result in greater accessibility of yoga to those in the downtown core. The more people doing yoga, the better,” said Diana Brown, studio manager at Moksha Yoga Halifax, located off Spring Garden road.

Laura Selenzi, co-founder of Serpentine Studios, also welcomes Shanti.

“I have heard good things about Shanti,” said Selenzi. “It is our philosophy that there is more than enough to go around, and that each student will find the right place for them.”

North Brewing Company celebrates successful year under new name

Halifax north end brewing company works towards zero emissions plan while expanding to meet growing popularity.

Celebrating their two-year anniversary earlier this year, North Brewing Company continues to take large leaps towards making their mark on the HRM bar scene.

The microbrewery, formally known as Bridge Brewing Company, changed their name last year in order to avoid confusion with another brewery under the same name. But co-owner and founder Peter Burbridge says he likes the new name and how it represents the artistic community in which the brewery resides.

“The north end is probably the most exciting area of Halifax right now,” said Burbridge. “It’s great seeing the community grow and support new businesses. It makes for a very lively and exciting neighborhood.”

The brewery is currently in the middle of its second expansion with plans to quadruple in capacity this year.

“The first year was all about getting the brewery started and gaining followers. Our focus was mainly on building a reputation around the quality of our beer and getting people excited about it. But this year we really got to focus on our goals and the direction we want to take the future of this company, specifically our goal to create a zero emissions brewery,” said Burbridge.

In the beginning, the idea of building out a zero emissions brewery was just a pipe dream for the small microbrewery, but last year Burbridge began working with other businesses in order to achieve this goal. Although he still has no idea what the final result will look like, Burbridge and the rest of the North Brewing team are excited about their journey.

Currently the company is sourcing all their energy through Bullfrog Energy and their spent grain is used as animal feed by TapRoot Farms.

Because it can be challenging for animals to digest, their goal for this year is to transition to using their spent grain, a by-product of the brewing process, to grow mushrooms instead.

Halifax beer judge and local blogger, Jeff Pinhey, says the company largely owes its success to its focus on Belgian-style brewing. North Brewing Company is one of the very few breweries of this genre in Atlantic Canada and is the only one in Nova Scotia.

“It gives them market differentiation and allows them a fair amount of diversity,” said Pinhey.

North Brewing Company now has tap accounts at 24 restaurants and bars throughout the HRM, with plans to expand to Lunenburg and Antigonish this year.

“We’re still a really tiny company, but we’re getting bigger. And we’re excited about it,” said Burbridge.

Pinhey states that he knows more about their beers than their zero emissions plan, but jokes he hopes they “plan to continue emitting beer.”

 

 

Barrington Street is getting revamped

Major reconstruction plans will be taking place during the next couple years on Barrington Street, including a paved road, new sidewalks, painted street lamps, and a handful of new businesses expected to open.

Barrington Street is getting a massive facelift. Within the next couple years, it should be a clean, rehabilitated, popular destination for new communities, tourists, students and locals.

“The sidewalk will be open all the way from one end to the other for the first time in two years. That’s a huge freakin’ deal,” said Waye Mason, the regional councillor for the area.

Amidst the construction signs and machinery, there are a few significant hints indicating an evolving space.

An Urban Outfitters is expected to open in May at 1652 Barrington Street, Freak Lunchbox is expanding, the Roy Building is under construction and new office spaces just opened up between Venus Envy and the Khyber Centre.

Core Issues

It won’t be easy.

“Rebuilding downtown is an ugly, dirty business,” Mason said.

The street is in need of some basic repairs. The sidewalks are old and cracked, the signs are rusty and like Mason pointed out, the road has one of the worst surface distress conditions of any street on the peninsula.

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“It’s got certain grandeur and it’s got certain potential, but it’s got parking signs that have been put up 20 or 40 years ago and the red paint is all worn off and it just looks like nobody cares,” Mason said.

Boarded up windows and ‘for lease’ signs are common sights on Barrington Street. Many businesses haven’t been able to last a year due to high rents and poor business.

“Almost every business that’s failed on Barrington Street- not every one but almost every one- in the last decade is an analog media business. They’re book stores, camera shops, record stores, so nothing that is coming back, and it doesn’t exist anywhere anymore,” Mason said.

Prevailing businesses

A number of stores and bars are helping to keep Barrington Street alive. Venus Envy has been on the block for 16 years and has no plans to leave.

Kaleigh Trace from Venus Envy is excited to be a part of and witness the upcoming developments on Barrington Street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)
Kaleigh Trace from Venus Envy is excited to be a part of and witness the upcoming developments on Barrington Street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

“I love Barrington Street and I really want it to be as vibrant as it used to be,” said Kaleigh Trace, the education co-ordinator at Venus Envy.

Freak Lunchbox is making a significant move. The candy store is relocating to a larger location, just a couple doors down from its current spot.

“Freak continues to thrive despite some small businesses struggling – I plan to just continue on the same path of constant improvement and growth. It has been working so far,” store owner Jeremy Smith said in an email.

“More business is always better. Competition is always better and more businesses downtown bring more people downtown.  It is a win-win situation,” he said.

Imperfect glass perfect for terrarium business

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

Jelsi Mynott and Vlad Kovalik are on the hunt for old storm windows. If they’re warped with air bubbles, all the better.

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new Heritage Line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

“These oddities are pretty common in older glass out of wooden framed windows,” said Mynott. Although, for their current orders they avoid scratches and bubbles as much as possible, this line will incorporate them.

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Kovalik and Mynott travel around Nova Scotia collecting window glass wherever it’s available. They like storm windows and old windows with wood frames.

“We have over 100 windows sitting in our basement right now,” said Kovalik. “There’s always window glass everywhere in our house,” said Mynott.

By using recycled glass only from Nova Scotia, Kovalik and Mynott hope to reduce their impact on the environment while keeping with a minimal design aesthetic.

“I think it’s neat that we’re sending parts of Nova Scotia around the world. These windows have seen so much weather and history,” Mynott said holding up individual pieces of triangle shaped glass.

Mynott and Kovalik, both 26, started Minimalistos in 2013. They turned a large second bedroom into a home studio and put a table in the middle of the room where they measure and cut glass.

“It’s all done in our home studio. Everything is done by hand from finding glass, to grinding the edges of the glass down, to soldering the pieces together to form a shape,” said Kovalik.

More than 20 terrariums of different shapes and sizes are on display in the couple’s house. Kovalik picks up one of the square-shaped designs with freshly soldered edges and a missing panel of glass.

“It takes hours of work getting it out of the frame, especially the ones with wooden frames. The learning curve can be pretty sharp especially when you risk breaking a vital pieces of glass,” said Mynott.

Their work day begins with a cup of coffee together. When they’re ready, they remove the glass from its frame and cut it into long strips. Then they cut the glass into shapes and use solder and a soldering iron to attach the pieces together.

They say they spend up to 50 hours a week creating their geometric glass sculptures. They have even begun working on weekends to keep up with product orders.

“A partnership makes all the work a little easier because sometimes I just don’t feel like working and he’s there telling me to get going,” said Mynott.

Currently, Minimalisto terrariums are sold worldwide through an online website where prices range from $55 for smaller shapes to $160 for larger, more complex shapes.

Several shops in Halifax, including Makenew, The Flower Shop and Common Values Emporium also carry the couple’s handmade sculptures. Mynott and Kovalik say they’ve sold more than 500 individual terrariums so far.

They will do custom designs for customers, and Mynott said they’re currently designing an exclusive line for Crown Flora Studio in Ontario.

They’re also experimenting with copper-coloured terrariums as part of their new designs.

“We never thought we would ever actually have a business, that was a bit unexpected but I think having the time to make things creatively as a career is amazing,” said Mynott.

Neither Mynott nor Kovalik have formal training in creative design. Mynott studied philosophy and Kovalik’s background is in medical research.

“We’ve always been DIYers. If there’s something we really want that’s way out of reach because we couldn’t possibly afford it then we’ll try and build it. That’s always been a big part of our relationship,” said Mynott.

Boxes of bubble-wrapped terrariums sit in the corner of the studio ready to be shipped.

Mynott said having a good relationship with their customers is what makes them work harder to make their deadlines.

“Halifax is a very supportive environment and very connected community which pushes you to do even better work,” she said.

Indoor food truck a winter success

Food Wolf, a company which operates out of a mobile food truck during the summer months, moved indoors in October and has hosted a successful Night Brunch event for four months.

A food truck is wrapping up its Night Brunch event after a successful winter season indoors at the Mayflower Curling Club.

Food Wolf, which operates out of a mobile food truck during the summer months, moved indoors in October and has hosted the Night Brunch event for four months.

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Co-owner of Food Wolf, Natalie Chavarie, prepares for a busy Brunch Night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“It’s been a great relationship for us,” said manager of the club Melanie Hughes. “They more than fulfilled their expectations.”

This is the first winter that Food Wolf has partnered with the Mayflower Curling Club located in the north end of Halifax.

Virgil Muir, co-owner of Food Wolf, said they see anywhere from 100 to 120 customers every Night Brunch.

“It’s been growing since the first one we had,” he said. “We almost doubled in customers after the first night.”

The event, which co-owner of the business Natalie Chavarie said is meant to push culinary culture, features new international menu items every Brunch Night. Most of the items on the menu, like caramelized apple pancakes and Mexican roast beef sammy, have never been made by the kitchen before.

A Double Down dish ready to be served. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
A Double Down dish ready to be served. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

On Sunday, many of the customers walked in with sports bags over their shoulders and a curling broom in hand. The curling club members make up a large portion of Food Wolf’s customers during the winter months.

“At first it took a lot of trust-building for them to understand why we were selling Southeast Asian and Korean-influenced food at a curling club,” said 34-year-old Chavarie. “Now, they have a great ownership over the whole deal.”

The business operates six days a week on the second floor of the curling club, but opens its doors to customers once a month at night on a Sunday for the Night Brunch event.

Natalie Chavarie prepares the kitchen before a busy night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)
Natalie Chavarie prepares the kitchen before a busy night. (Photo: Sydney Jones)

“It’s brunch for the working class, it’s brunch for people who are working in the service industry or in the creative class — they don’t have much leisure time,” said Chavarie.

The Night Brunch on Sunday ran until around 1 a.m. Chavarie said Food Wolf will most likely be partnering with the club again next winter.

Nathalie Morin and Julien Rousseau-Dumarcet: the complex world of a chocolatier

“Welcome to Rousseau,” Nathalie Morin greets customers, upon entering the specialty French chocolate shop, Rousseau Chocolatier. Fittingly, she says the shop’s name with a French accent, rolling the “R” and deepening her voice.

“Welcome to Rousseau,” Nathalie Morin greets customers, upon entering the specialty French chocolate shop, Rousseau Chocolatier. Fittingly, she says the shop’s name with a French accent, rolling the “R” and deepening her voice.

The small shop is clean, bright and cozy, in a minimalistic sort of way. One wall is accented with warm wood, the other walls are painted white. Wooden shelves hold a small number of other products like chocolate bars and specialty caramels.

It smells, aptly, like chocolate. However, it’s not a sugary, sweet scent. It’s a deep, cocoa aroma, with multiple layers laced with subtle hints of other flavours.

There is only one glass showcase, but it is full of at least 10 different types of chocolates. Behind that, there is a shiny hot chocolate machine and a small cabinet of colourful macarons in flavours like banana rum, blackberry and apple cinnamon.

Owned and operated by Ottawa native Morin and her husband Julien Rousseau-Dumarcet, Rousseau Chocolatier has been in business on 1277 Hollis Street since May 2014.

Originally from Roquebrune-sur-Argens in southeast France, Rousseau-Dumarcet now handcrafts specialty chocolates, brownies and French macarons everyday on site in Halifax.

Rousseau-Dumarcet left school at age 16 to find a job, and initially began working as a pastry chef and chocolatier. Since then, he has worked for hotels or in chocolate shops across Europe, and has had professional training in France and Scotland.

Morin and Rousseau-Dumarcet met about six years ago, in Wakefield, Que. Now, at age 30 and 28, respectively, and based in Halifax, Rousseau-Dumarcet crafts the business’s products and Morin runs the store front, greeting customers, offering samples and describing in detail each flavour of chocolate.

Through the viewing bay, opposite the showcase full of chocolates, Rousseau-Dumarcet can usually be seen at work, in his white and navy blue uniform.

Rousseau-Dumarcet in the process of making chocolate macarons.
Rousseau-Dumarcet in the process of making chocolate macarons. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)

He sets up the workplace carefully, making sure his tools are in the proper place. If he’s making macarons, he will turn on the oven and mix meringue made with sugar and egg whites into a second batter. Then, not spilling even a drop of the final batter, he’ll scoop it into a bag.

Hunching over the table so his face is mostly obscured, Rousseau-Dumarcet squeezes the batter onto trays covered in white sheets. The batter comes out as small round dots that will soon be, in this case, chocolate macarons. He moves quickly, filling a tray in only a minute or two.

Rousseau-Dumarcet in the process of making chocolate macarons.
Rousseau-Dumarcet in the process of making chocolate macarons. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)

When he’s making chocolate, his favourite step of the process is finishing off each individual chocolate by garnishing it with a unique topping: a sprinkle of coconut; crushed rose petals; a simple, single pumpkin seed or a more complex, edible design of pink skulls.

Out front, Morin describes exactly how the chocolates are made and has detailed description for each flavour on display.

The peanut butter cranberry is a “a reminder of those PB and J days, it’ll take you back, its comfort food;” the orange balsamic caramel was inspired by fresh, tangy summer salads; and the lemon ganache has been described as “lemon meringue pie dipped in chocolate.”

Morin describes a product to a customer. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)
Morin describes a product to a customer. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)

As for how much chocolate they eat themselves? Morin says they each eat only one chocolate per week, and both name the lemon ganache as their favourite flavour.

“When you work with chocolate all day everyday, you just don’t crave it as much,” she says.

Morin and Rousseau-Dumarcet spend seven days a week in their store, usually from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., and will occasionally take one day off every two weeks. They do not have any employees.

Other than Rousseau, there are a couple other chocolate shops in the Halifax area specializing in handmade chocolates.

Besides creating confections for the shop on site, Rousseau Chocolatier also provides products to several hotels and businesses in Halifax, takes custom orders and caters for events. A gift box of 12 chocolates can be bought for $19.

Both owners say their business is unique because of the simplicity and specialty of the products and their freshness.

“We are definitely a specialty store,” says Morin. “We try not to spread ourselves too thin by offering pastries and all these different types of products.”

As well, ingredients like chillies and sea salt are purchased from local farmers’ markets, maple from Acadian Maple Products, rose petals from the Annapolis Valley and other ingredients from a New Brunswick based distribution company called Dolphin Village.

Morin prepares a specialty hot chocolate made of 2% milk, cocoa, cream, dark chocolate and a hint of white chocolate for sweetness. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)
Morin prepares a specialty hot chocolate made of 2% milk, cocoa, cream, dark chocolate and a hint of white chocolate for sweetness. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)

For the two entrepreneurs, who had been planning, doing paper work and researching Halifax for two years prior to moving, the preparation stage of the business plan was the most stressful. However, Morin says they were motivated to keep going through this initial struggle.

“We’ve been waiting for this for years,” she said, “so it made sense to push through it as much as we could.”

“It is very difficult when you start, because all the money you put in the business is your money, it comes from your pocket. So if I failed, I lost everything,” says Rousseau-Dumarcet. “It’s very stressful, but after, when you see the business grow, it’s amazing. It’s like a little baby.”

For French born Rousseau-Dumarcet, finding a suitable location to establish his first business was the greatest concern.

“I liked a good quality of life and all my life I lived near the Mediterranean, so when we moved to Canada I wanted to be close to the water,” he says.

“We wanted to be able to enjoy life,” says Morin.

Halifax won against their other choice, Vancouver, because it is more affordable, there was less competition and is located closer to both Morin and Rousseau-Dumarcet’s families.

Nathalie Morin (left) and Julien Rousseau-Dumarcet (right), co-owners of Rousseau Chocolatier. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)
Nathalie Morin (left) and Julien Rousseau-Dumarcet (right), co-owners of Rousseau Chocolatier. (Photo: Bronwen McKie)

The co-owners of Rousseau Chocolatier say their experience in Halifax so far has been positive.

“It’s amazing. We work for our future,” says Rousseau-Dumarcet. “It’s really nice to have our own business.”

“People generally love the story, two people meeting and creating this idea, running their own chocolate shop, and hard work does pay off and in the end we did pull through and do what we’ve always wanted to do,” says Morin. “I think that’s the romance about it.”

Brewmaster Lorne Romano keeps things old school

Longtime Rogues Roost beer maker bucks trends, prefers the traditional

Rogues Roost brewmaster Lorne Romano leans over a serving tank, tucked away in the back of the Halifax brewpub. As he describes in detail what purpose each tank serves, I confess to him that I know absolutely nothing about brewing.

“Neither do I,” Romano says, stifling a laugh.

As it turns out, Romano does know what he’s doing when it comes to beer. In fact, Rogues Roost has been named “Best brew pub” in Halifax by The Coast a total of eight times since 2005 and Romano himself has won more than 30 brewing medals worldwide.

Originally from Toronto, Romano worked in real estate, the music industry, computer programming, and even owned a variety store before finding his calling in brewing. His affinity for the craft was kindled back home in Ontario, where he and a friend would often visit businesses that let customers brew their own beer.

Craig Pinhey, a writer who covers the beer scene in Atlantic Canada, has known Romano since the 1990s when they both served on the board of the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA). He says Romano’s homebrews were “better than most commercial beers.”

Romano also started brewing commercially around that time, working with Michael Hancock, a member of the Molson family who formerly ran Denison’s Brewing Company.

“That place made excellent beer,” recalls Pinhey.

One of the owners of that brewery, according to Romano, was Prince Leopold of Germany.

“I’ve worked for royalty,” Romano states, matter-of-factly.

One day, a friend of Romano’s called him from Halifax to tell him about a job opening at a new brewpub in the city. Garrison, Propeller, the Granite Brewery and the Henry House were the only microbreweries in Halifax at the time.

Romano was inbetween brewing jobs at the time, and shortly after coming to Halifax for an interview, he accepted the position at Rogues Roost.

In its early days in the late 1990s, Rogues Roost was always the first place Pinhey went when visiting Halifax. He’d always sit by the window with a newspaper and would often see Romano wearing his rubber boots around the brewery.

“He’s an odd duck and not much for the spotlight, but a great brewer,” Pinhey says.

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After 17 years on the job, Romano estimates that he’s brewed around 20 styles of beer.

While going over the beers currently in his fermenting tanks, Romano pauses to explain the story behind one of the names: his Ukrainian Freedom Stout.

“Well, I’m Ukrainian, I can’t call it Russian Imperial Stout anymore,” he says, pointing to the beer menu above the bar. “They won’t put the word Ukrainian on there, so they just write ‘Freedom Stout…’ I figure if everyone else can come up with new beer styles, I’m allowed.”

Does he consider brewing to be a job or a hobby? Romano pauses before answering.

“It used to be a hobby,” he says with a sigh. “It’s more of a job these days since I don’t drink anymore.”

He doesn’t elaborate, but Breanna Lovett, who has worked with Romano for three years, says she believes he stopped drinking because of health concerns.

Romano says he considers stained glass making, gardening and landscaping to be his hobbies nowadays.

Dealing with competition

Romano is well aware of the recent boom of microbreweries in Nova Scotia. He initially proves hesitant to talk about it.

“I gotta watch what I say,” Romano says. “I’ll say things that a lot of people won’t be happy with. And they know I’ll say [those things]. It’s just [that] when they see it in print, they’ll be a little more upset.”

Besides, Romano says he isn’t interested in the opinions of his competition. He prefers to turn to his customers for input.

“I don’t really care what everyone else is doing,” he says. “[But] I know what our customers like to drink.”

Lovett agrees that Romano is certainly one for conversation, especially with customers.

“He likes to talk,” she says. “He’s a very interesting person with a lot of history.”

True to form, then, Romano eventually expressed his frustrations regarding the current state of affairs in the brewing industry.

According to Romano, a current trend in the microbrewing industry is for beers to be high in alcohol and contain lots of hops, much of the time coming at the expense of taste.

“I don’t get into these over-hopped beers,” he says. “Older guys like me, they’re still brewing traditional, well-balanced beers.”

‘I hate these growlers’

Two years ago, Rogues Roost decided to start selling growlers, large bottles of draught beer that customers can purchase and take home with them. Although Romano admits that growlers are popular in the microbrewing industry, he is disappointed at his brewpub’s decision to follow the trend.

“Personally, I hate these growlers. Terrible representation of beer,” Romano says. “They’re not getting the proper carbonation in the bottle. Someone takes home a two-litre growler, if they don’t drink it all that same night, it’s flat the next day.”

After talking with competing microbreweries, Romano says that he’s most concerned about the amount of beer that’s lost while filling up growlers. Romano says one brewery he talked to told him that they lose 15 litres of beer a day just filling them up.

“There’s so much spillage, it’s ridiculous,” he says. “But it’s a trend. I don’t understand it. I hate it.”

When asked what a good alternative would be to purchasing a growler, Romano predictably pointed out a classic: the six-pack.

“[With a six-pack,] you’re going to get a better representation of the product that the brewery produces, because it’ll be properly carbonated,” he says.

Or, as Romano suggests, one could simply sit down and enjoy a cold one at the brewpub, just as their product is intended to be consumed.

Romano believes that growlers have actually cost Rogues business.

“Why should we sell beer to take home? We’re a brewpub,” he says.

New owners, same job

Although the brewpub was recently acquired by the Murphy Hospitality Group of Charlottetown, which also owns the Gahan House on the Halifax waterfront, Romano maintains that Rogues Roost is still very much the same place today as it was when he started working there.

“This place needs a going-over,” Romano says, pointing out the faded paint on the walls. “Usually seven years is the rule, and then [most restaurants] will do a major renovation.”

Seventeen years after his career at Rogues began, Romano insists that he still enjoys going to work every day.

“I’ve pretty well enjoyed most of my jobs that I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s nice to be in a profession you enjoy doing… Most people don’t do the job they enjoy doing.”

The familiar ease with which Romano goes about his business is proof enough that he knows exactly what he’s doing.