Double Business Feature — S’Wich Cafe & BLVD Bistro: Both Celebrate North Shore News Readers Choice Awards!

Reader's Choice Winners

I discovered BLVD Bistro one morning last summer when my BFF and Big Sis, Mona had spent the night and we were craving brunch. I did a Google search and they were one of the first to pop up for North Vancouver.

They provided great customer service and yummy noms. And I found out the Chef and Owner of BLVD also is the man behind the business next door, S’wich Cafe.

I went to work straight away taking photos of our brunch, the decor and featured them on my Instagram page along with local hot sauce, Jumpin’ Johnny’s. And more recently I was able to visit S’Wich Cafe with my Foodie Cohort, Mama Izumi and ordered an El Cubano, Up Your Alley and their Vegan Chilli.

Winner of North Shore News Reader's Choice Awards - BLVD Bistro Brunch
Winner of North Shore News Readers Choice Awards – BLVD Bistro Favourite Weekend Brunch & Favourite Breakfast Restaurant

I had the privilege of interviewing Chef Erik Juarez and thoroughly enjoyed our Q & A session:

M: When did you open S’wich Cafe and Blvd Bistro?

C: S’wich Cafe was opened August 1, 2011 (OMG) and BLVD BISTRO opened April 20, 2016.

M: Did you plan from the beginning to open two businesses side by side?

C: I didn’t plan on it at all! I thought I was going to live simply. Sling coffees, a few sandwiches and not do anything more in the hospitality business ever again.

BLVD Bistro's Standard Issue Benedict
BLVD Bistro’s Standard Issue Benedict

M: Where are you from? If you moved to Vancouver, why did you move here?

C: I was born and raised in North Vancouver. It is my home and always will be. I’ve moved around a bunch in my youth, Mexico, Spain, Kelowna, and the Salmon Arm.

M: What was your inspiration for your businesses?

C: Truthfully, I never meant to open a business. I was a dedicated Chef that fell into the same trap as so many others before me.

Find a decent job and work your ass off for some owners that would probably replace you tomorrow if you dropped dead. That’s what happened. I was working 16 hour days with no days off in sight for people I feel, couldn’t care less about me.

I was stressed, sick, fat and unhappy. At that time my grandmother passed away and I inherited 33 thousand dollars from a life insurance policy. The shop you know as S’wich Cafe was originally a neighbourhood coffee shop that wasn’t doing so hot.

One day the owner asked me jokingly if I wanted to buy a cafe. I said, “Yes, I DO!” So with that inheritance and some help from my Mom I bought that business (paid too much) but now I have something that is mine. A little tiny piece of a hospitality business and a chance to do it differently.

M: Did you always know that you wanted to be a chef?

C: I did not know but I was about 16 when I found out. I worked at EARLS like a lot of North Vancouver men and women have. I worked my way through the ranks, learned to communicate, learned to flirt.

Most importantly, I learned that I had a deep love for cooking, the push, the lifestyle and the art. However, somewhere in my limited experience I knew there was more art and skill to uncover.

Chef Erik Juarez
Chef Erik Juarez & his dry cured Spanish Chorizo

M: Did you always know that you wanted to be a restaurant owner?

C: I think every aspiring Chef dreams of opening his or her own place. But Ownership was never really a specific goal I had in mind.

My career has just organically led me to these places. Basically, life presents doors and pathways and I hope that by now — I have the life experience and instinct to walk through the right doors and tread down the correct paths. Trust me when I say, I haven’t always.

M: Where did you study the art of culinary?

C: I had been working for a few years in fine dining kitchens by my early 20’s. I had some amazing mentors and some horrible ones.

I remember the day I told one of my chefs that I was going to go to culinary school. He said, “Erik, you can go to school, spend 10 thousand dollars on a fancy diploma and you can hang it on the bathroom wall. The only thing it will be good for is to wipe your ass when you run out of toilet paper.”

I will never forget that. He was kinda right. I staged and worked in every kitchen I could. Every place in town with the word “Le” before the name I worked there.

I read culinary text books like novels and tried the recipes that interested me. I found my resources and my style and have evolved it over 20 years of learning. I still use my online subscription to “ Cook’s Illustrated” daily and have been collecting those magazines for 20 years.

M: What would your advice to future chefs with dreams of owning their own restaurant be?

C: RUN! RUN away fast!!! Hahaha. Joking…

I have a ton of advice. Firstly, be equal to your concept and your staff. Put in the work and do what it takes to make it mesh. There a lot of very long difficult days ahead but I promise once you’re on the other side of it… It’s worth it.

Be there for your staff, know them and care about them.

S'Wich Cafe
S’Wich Cafe’s lovely Tina helped me order from the many yummy sandwich options

Back up your weaknesses, If cooking dope food is your thing but numbers aren’t, make sure you budget and be able to afford someone that has your bottom line in mind at all times.

DM me or Follow me for more advice. Hahahahaha…

Chef Erik Juarez’s IG

M: Do you have a philosophy in life or favourite quote(s) that you would like to share with everyone?

C: I also have a bunch of them.

‘How you do one thing is how you do everything’

‘Perfection is the little things done well. Everyone else sees the big things’

My new FAVOURITE:

BE THE BEST. WORK HARD- WORK FAST-WORK CLEANLY. EVERY INGREDIENT WE USE HAS TO BE THE BEST WE CAN AFFORD.

SEASONS HAVE TO RULE THE KITCHEN. ONLY ALLOW MINIMAL MANIPULATION OF INGREDIENTS WHEN NECESSARY. ELEVATE FLAVOURS THRU UNDERSTANDING.

COOK AS IF YOU ARE EATING. WASTE IS POOR WORKMANSHIP. EXTRACTION OF FLAVOUR IS OUR ROLE IN LIFE AS COOKS.

BALANCE OF MENU IS OUR OBLIGATION TO OUR GUESTS. HEALTH IS CRUCIAL IN MENU PLANNING.

SEASONING IS A TRUE SKILL. SO TASTE, TASTE AND TASTE AGAIN. OUR GOAL IS TO BE THE BEST. SO WE MUST ACT THE BEST.

Winner of North Shore News Reader's Choice Awards - S'Wich Cafe Favourite Caterer
Winner of North Shore News Reader’s Choice Awards – S’Wich Cafe Favourite Caterer

MILESTONES

The meaning of milestones has changed for me. I used to think it was winning awards and competitions. But I couldn’t be more wrong.

Milestones for me are when employees leave you to pursue their own life goals, when great things happen to the team, and when people tell you they love a component or multiple components of your business.

One of my greatest achievements is finding a way to pay a living wage to my staff and provide meaningful benefits to my whole team. Not having to hire and retrain constantly because people feel appreciated and included. It’s built into our company’s culture of genuineness and inclusivity.

Accolades are nice, Reader’s Choice Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, recognition from our peers. It all feels amazing but I’d have to say, surviving a pandemic, coming out stronger and better has been our greatest achievement to date. I will never forget the strength it took our team to weather the storm.

I am grateful to my staff that stayed with me and came back. We have never been better and that is my greatest achievement to date.

To learn more about BLVD Bistro please visit their website and follow their Instagram as well as S’Wich Cafe’s (right next door) website and IG Page.

Local Business Feature – Little Pink Door Boutique Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary

Little Pink Door Boutique

I discovered Little Pink Door Boutique (LPD) 3 years ago when I was on my lunch break at Northwoods Village, in North Vancouver, BC. I noticed their mannequins outside their store and they were having a sale.

I went in planning on just trying on a white off-the-shoulder blouse that I found on one of their mannequins but about 15 minutes later I walked out with the aforementioned blouse, white Joseph Ribkoff capris with pom-poms, sandals with bling AND a matching bracelet! I was preparing for the following year’s Le Diner en Blanc (i had just attended the exclusive event).

I met Deb that day and had a great time chatting with her. I thought she was the Owner of LPD but she said no, that would be her best friend, Colette Bennett.

M: When did you open Little PInk Door Boutique?

C: I opened Little Pink Door on March 1st, 2016!  So this month actually marks our 5th Year Anniversary!  Usually we do a big birthday celebration with an in-store event with live music, appys, and wine.

In the past, we have seen up to 90 women in attendance at our event.  This year with the pandemic we won’t be able to do that!  However it’s a big milestone for us as it is not only our 5th Birthday but also it’s the 5th year in a row that we have won Favourite Boutique on the North Shore with Reader’s Choice! 

We are planning a Facebook Live Event on Thursday, March 25th from 7-8pm.  We will do a fashion show, have tons of giveaways, announce our donation to Sage Transition.  Still working out the details but want to make this a fun, engaging and memorable event!

M: Did you always want to own a clothing boutique?

C: So, I’ve always LOVED clothes and the Fashion World!  I remember spending all my allowance on Fashion Magazines and would go through them page by page.  However, I really hated the experience of shopping: finding unique items, the service and the overall process. 

Back in 2011, I started to turn my dream into a reality and developed a business plan to open up a clothing boutique. I already knew I would name it Little Pink Door!  I’ve had the domain for more than a decade and back then used the website to showcase my photographs. I have a huge passion photographing doors. And of course, PINK is my favourite colour hence — Little Pink Door!

Colette Bennett Owner of Little Pink Door Boutique
Colette Bennett Owner of Little Pink Door Boutique

M: Where are you from? If you moved to Vancouver, why did you move here?

C: I was born and raised in North Vancouver and have lived here my entire life. I absolutely LOVE the North Shore and can’t think of a better place to live!

M: What was your inspiration for your business?

C: Well, my inspiration was to create a retail space that was completely unique to what was currently out there!  My vision is to be a leading go to boutique destination for women by providing them with the perfect blend of product, customer focused experience in an in store environment that fosters friendship, trust and loyalty!

The inspiration for the store design was to make it feel like a beautiful dream walk-in closet filled with so many wonderful and beautiful things!

M: A little bird told me that you used to be in marketing. Did you enjoy your former career?

Yes, I was. And I still am!  Marketing Little Pink Door is my passion! Back at LPD’s inception I developed the brand strategy, brand personality and  logo.  Today I look after all the marketing efforts including developing unique promotions, social media, and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

M: What did you do prior to opening Little Pink Door?

C: Before opening Little Pink Door I worked in the Corporate world in Marketing for 25 years!  I worked for some fabulous companies and some not so fabulous.

The one fabulous company I worked for was Starbucks for 10 years and was their Marketing Manager for Western Canada.  It was at Starbucks where I learned and developed skills in brand marketing and understanding the importance of marketing an experience over simply a product or service. 

It was the best education I have ever had and I believe what I learned from Howard Schultz (former CEO, Chairman and Founder of Starbucks) has helped define Little Pink Door and the success we’ve had to date.

M: Where did you study marketing or was it a profession you fell into? If you studied it, which institution did you attend?

C: Once I left high school I went to Emily Carr and wanted to become a professional Fashion Photographer.  I finished the first year and got accepted into the photography program but couldn’t afford it! 

From there I accepted an entry level position at a large company.  They were willing to pay for my education part time so I decided that the most creative part of business was marketing so that’s what I decided to pursue.  I went to BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and did the Marketing Communications program all part time in the evening.  It took 5 years to complete!  A fabulous program and school!

Little Pink Door's Positive Affirmations
Little Pink Door’s Positive Affirmations on IG

M: What would your advice to future owners with dreams of owning their own boutique be?

C: From an emotional standpoint – don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream.  Surround yourself only with people that help feed your passion and are positive.  Stay the course.

From a business perspective – develop a robust business plan that includes all aspects of your dream business.  Include financial forecasts, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, competitive analysis, define your target market, and develop a marketing plan. 

The business plan for LPD took me 2 years to develop and it became the foundation of my business.  And I still do annual business plans that I share with my fabulous team of ladies who work with me so we are all aligned on where we are headed!

M: Do you have a philosophy in life or famous quote you would like to share with everyone?

“Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise!” — Howard Schultz

MILESTONES

M: Are there any milestones for Little Pink Door that you would like me to mention in the Business Feature?

C: As mentioned earlier, we are celebrating our 5th Year Anniversary with a live Facebook Event on Thursday, March 25th from 7-8pm!  And we are also celebrating that we have won Reader’s Choice Awards for Favourite Local Boutique on the North Shore for the 5th year in a row!

If you would like to learn more about Little Pink Door Boutique visit their website, follow their Instagram, and their Facebook page to join the festivities for their 5th Year Anniversary.

Local Business Feature: Interview with Adam Swanson of QRZones

Adam Sanderson of QR Zones

I met Adam Swanson, Founder of QRZones via Instagram as it has now become the norm — networking business contacts and meeting new friends online. After exchanging several messages with Adam, I interviewed him on Zoom and was delighted with how much we had in common.

He was born and raised in North Vancouver, BC. Adam recently graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science.

Last summer during the chaos of the pandemic and one of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) marches that he participated in, he was inspired to spread POSITIVITY, to uplift people and build a platform to give back to the community. This is when QRZones was born …

QR Zones Unique Advertising
QRZones Unique Advertising Opportunities

Adam is not motivated by money. He enjoys teaching others and sharing his knowledge of computers. He loved leading a workshop for kindergarten to grade 7 children and developing a curriculum of computer science and coding.

He wants to propel people to open their minds and drive home his message that technology doesn’t have to be hard to learn. Adam uses easy to understand language to make people more comfortable with computers and how they can help us — to show us, laymen that it is a matter of ‘learnability’.

Adam is full of exciting new ideas and opportunities for Small Businesses to grow by saving money and the environment with QR Codes. I have met a kindred spirit who demonstrates my Love of Local! During our meeting we discussed working together to promote and market Local Businesses. Our shared love of building community, spreading positivity, and bringing people up can ONLY grow stronger.

6 Ways QR Codes Can Help Grow Any Business
6 Ways QR Codes Can Help Grow Any Business

This is the core of Adam’s mission, “lifting others up because when we do, we lift ourselves with them.”

To learn more how Adam Swanson and his team at QRZones can expand your business, visit their website and follow their Instagram.

Local Business Feature: North Vancouver’s Luxury Automotive Body Shop Coache Collision — In Business for Over 45 Years

Coache Collision Luxury Automotive Repair Shop

I came to know the wonderful family behind Coache Collision in 2011 when I was the Assistant Branch Manager at Hertz Car Rental.  Because Hertz was ICBC’s (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) preferred rental company, most of our business was with the body shops in North Vancouver.  Out of the many shops that made reservations for their customers, they were one of my favourites.

The luxury automotive body shop specializes in Volkswagen and Audi vehicles with special certifications from both German brands. They have loyal customers that are three generations long just as the Tietze family business.

Coache Collsion was opened in 1975 by Norbert Sr. and Greti Tietze, a hard-working couple, that emigrated from Germany with a suitcase, $50, and a dream to better provide for their family by pursuing the opportunities that Canada offered.

Their longevity can be attributed to Opa and Omi Tietze’s work ethics. They didn’t cut any corners. They repaired their customer’s vehicles right from the beginning, provided German quality craftsmanship and excellent customer service. Omi worked in the office running the administrative, and front end of the shop. Opa had a Type-A personality, was a perfectionist and brought the vehicles back beautifully to pre-damaged condition. Before they opened Coache, he fixed anything with different parts that he could get his hands on.

2018 A5 BEFORE Coache Collision's repair
2018 A5 BEFORE Coache Collision’s repair

Growing up, Opa’s son, Norbert Tietze Jr, spent a lot of time at Coache and took over the shop around 2012 – 2013 with his wife, Chantal. They originally met in Williams Lake, BC when she worked as a waitress in a Chinese Restaurant and Norbert came in for lunch. Opa had a cabin there and he spent a lot of summers in his youth fishing and hunting.

Norbert continued Opa’s tradion of German quality and perfection during his 30 to 35 years in the industry and passed these along to one of his three sons, Taylor. The grandson of Opa Tietze is an estimator. He tells me with pride that, “We’ve had many family members working [here]: my grandparents, my mom and dad, my uncle… one of my brothers has been with us, and now I’m the last of the third generation left.”

2018 A5 AFTER Coache Collision's repair
2018 A5 AFTER Coache Collision’s repair

Just like his Papa before him, Taylor grew up in the body shop. One of the technicians held him as a baby shortly after he was born. He started working in 2006 as a detailer during the summers and in January 2013, he began his full-time career as an estimator. Most of what Taylor learned about estimating was on the job but he also attended courses at the Automotive Training Centre in Surrey, BC.

Sadly, on October 1st, 2019 there was a change of ownership. Norbert and Chantal Tietze sold their family business to the Raydar Collision Group, another family owned business. Opa’s grandson explains that, “My parents wouldn’t have handed over the shop to just anyone, they wanted to make sure all of Coache’s employees were taken care of after they were gone.” All of the staff remains the same as well as the name of the business, only the owners have changed.

Taylor elaborates that, Bill Davidson from the Raydar Group has shown an unmatched passion for the industry, as well … he values his employees. I’ve personally been to one of his other shops, and it’s clear that he takes every step to ensure that not only the business is successful, but the employees are successful within it. I can only see us becoming a more tight-knit team under his leadership.”

To learn more about the luxury automotive repair shop, Coache or book an appointment, visit their website and follow their Instagram. They are located at: 1172 W 3 St, North Vancouver, BC.