Opportunity knocks during the pandemic

Local entrepreneurs share why they’ve opened new businesses

Despite the uncertain times of the pandemic, entrepreneurs are launching new businesses.

Some of these new businesses are restaurants.

Hela and Salah Ajilani own the Golden Fork Restaurant. They immigrated to Canada 10 years ago and have been planning to open a restaurant ever since.

Salah explains, ‘’We found the location last year exactly one month before COVID-19 started. We waited a few months, but the pandemic was still ongoing and we reached a stage where we were no longer able to pay the rent, so we decided to open on October 9.’’

He says they’ve been doing OK despite the challenges the pandemic has brought. 

Virginia Potkins also realized her own dream in August last year. 

“Two Brown Dogs has been a dream of mine for quite some time. My focus is on those comfort foods that make you think of home. I specialize in gourmet perogies, brunch, freezer-to-table meals, and catering. Once things re-open, I plan on having some special events.”

Potkins explains, “I was searching for a place for a while when this opportunity came up. It was the perfect size, the right price, and I wanted a location in Alberta Avenue.” She adds, “The latest shut down has definitely slowed my business down. However, it has given me the opportunity to get creative and come up with new ideas and plan for when I will be able to open again. Over Christmas, I made Christmas dinners which were very well received. I also partnered with a local bar to provide charcuterie boxes to complement their cocktails to go.’’

Pe Metawe Games is another new addition. David Plamondon is the co-owner of Pe Metawe Together LTD, which incorporates Pe Metawe Consulting and Pe Metawe Games. They’ve expanded into a retail space on 118 Avenue, but haven’t officially opened it yet as they’re waiting on final development permits from the City of Edmonton. As of press time, Plamondon gave a tentative opening of the beginning of February.

“The decision to open Pe Metawe Games in the middle of a pandemic was mostly driven out of opportunity rather than desire. We have been planning our expansion into retail since December 2019 with our initial goal of opening in July 2020,” he says. “We were very thankful to find a location on 118 Avenue that had the appropriate space, was part of a community that we wanted to be involved in, and was within our budget. We knew that renovations would take approximately 10 weeks, so when the opportunity to sign the lease came up we knew that we had to take the risk.’’

However, plans for the community gaming part of the retail space have been affected. Their community gaming space will likely be closed to the public until there are fewer COVID-19 cases and more people have been vaccinated. 

“We’ve been very clear with our team that we want to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of our customers and our staff so while we will open up our retail space, we’ll be enforcing a strict mask policy, and a very low limit of customers allowed in the store at any given time,” says Plamondon. 

Until they open the retail space, they will be taking special requests as well as improving their web store.

Feature Image: Hela (left) and Salah (right) Ajilani, the owners of the Golden Fork Restaurant, have wanted to open a restaurant for 10 years. | Rebecca Lippiatt

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