From Waiter to Owner
"In 2010 I was tired of being a waiter," says Simon at Cafe Rista. "My wife and I both had the opportunity to go it alone - we happened to find a good spot underserved for something like a cafe. We also knew the owner of the location, which helped alert me to the opportunity. We had the money… Everything just came together." Simon emphasizes that they understood and kept in mind the future developments planned in the area, such as Westblock and the (at that time) future Valley Line West LRT.
“I can’t fight it - I have to work with it.”
Simon sees nothing but positive impacts for the area and Cafe Rista, having experienced no issues with traffic or access to his shop. Indeed, he uses the project to his advantage: "Nearby construction workers add to my customer base - I’ll go out while they are working and provide them my card and let them know where they can get a bite to eat." While he states his opinion may change as the project moves forward, he states he is ready to meet it where it is at: “I can’t fight it - I have to work with it.”
He also accepts that construction is a challenge for businesses, but that such scenarios must be met with action: “...Yes, maybe with construction I lose signage, frontage, but how do I adapt?” he asks, "If you haven't had the word 'pivot' tattooed in your brain after COVID, now is the time. Nothing comes without a cost. Mass transit is essential to the growth of the city; we have to adapt and plan for the future."
SPR is the new young giant in town
Simon sees big things for Stony Plain Road, believing it has the capacity to be the next 124th Street with cheap rents, surrounding residential housing, and as part of an established neighbourhood and traffic corridor. He notes that LRT construction removed a lot of open lots and derelict buildings, encouraging future development. "The goal is to attract more people with different economic backgrounds to the area - which filters positively to my consumer base and audience - I price for that broader audience and clientele - more development simply supports this." He hopes for more independent businesses versus franchises in the future, but recognizes that more franchises are an indicator that urban redevelopment initiatives have been successful - we built it, and they came!
Keeping it real
Believing the city model and plan for the Stony Plain Road area can be successfully implemented, Simon is looking forward to what the future may bring. In the meantime, he spends his time serving his local customers while networking with other business owners and the broader community. Stop by for a bite!