DEE DEE’S ICECREAM
GET THE SCOOP
Ditta Kasdan has already made 100 litres of ice cream this morning, what have you done today?
Today and every day throughout the summer Dee Dee’s Ice Cream takes on the physically demanding task of making 100 litres of their fabulous frozen flavours, seven days a week. Although production slows down during winter (not even 100 litres per a week), Ditta herself has probably made about 40,000 litres of ice cream in her career so far.
But it didn’t all start in 2004 when she opened a seasonal location in Peggy’s Cove followed by a year-round eatery in the North End in 2010. Ditta has been creating ice cream since she began experimenting with flavours on her students before she retired from teaching.
She spent a whole year learning, and took a gelato course in Texas that inspired the purchase of the Italian equipment she uses in her shop today.
One of the most impressive things about Dee Dee’s success is that Ditta launched the endeavor without any formal business training (if you don’t count her experience selling silver earrings in high school).
“I just had a background in math and an entrepreneurial family,” she says, “but I’m not really a risky person, I couldn’t have made Dee Dee’s without the the support of my family and friends.”
It’s that support that she aims to replicate with the way she conducts business and each person she hires.
“The health of the community is made up of things like affordable housing, access to healthcare, and I think employment is another thing that helps everyone benefit,” she says.
Ditta is a person who practices what she preaches, whether that’s divesting from big banks or employing locals, her money is where her mouth is. She currently employs 16 people from the community during the summer.
“I have a commitment to the community,” she says, “I think it’s so important to hire African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq, and North Enders.” And so she does.
But her leadership in the community goes beyond dismantling systemic oppression one local hire at a time, she also invests in the simple joy of delivering smiles on hot summer days, one scoop of ice cream at a time.
Dee Dee’s is known for diverse flavours inspired by local ingredients and local suggestions, like Mexican, Raspberry Passionfruit Sorbet, or Rum & Raisin; Ditta says her current favourite is seasonal strawberry rhubarb. She did disclose that chocolate is the best seller all year, but in the summer it’s all about the berries and seasonal fruit.
It’s the commitment to using real ingredients, locally grown where possible, that sets Dee Dee’s apart. From burritos to coffee, it’s organic beans and small farm meat, so they can truly boast: ‘Only real foods make it into our kitchen and only ice cream of unreal taste makes it out.’
DELMORE “BUDDY” DAYE LEARNING INSTITUTE
by Rachel Sovka
Passion & Progress
Progress and passion take shape in the form of the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute on the corner of Creighton and Cornwallis Streets. A hub of research, publications, and community engagement, the crisp building stands strong in a historic location. Beyond the significant namesake of the two cross streets, the namesake of the institute itself, Delmore “Buddy” Daye, spent some of his youth in the area.
“This is a contemporary and historic location because of all the intergenerational conversation around this area,” says CEO Sylvia Parris, “we have people everyday coming in to share their stories about Mr Daye and their experiences in the North End.”
Sylvia, who lives in the North End herself, says she hears many stories about growing up here and the things that are not here anymore. That’s why she believes it’s important to be engaged with the community in present day; engagement aligned with both the institute’s mandate and what Buddy Daye himself would have enjoyed.
Although Buddy Daye was first known as a champion boxer, he was also a prominent member of Halifax’s African Nova Scotian community and became the first African Nova Scotian to hold the post of Sergeant-at-Arms in 1990.
The institute takes after his spirit of inclusion and action.
“Mr Daye’s advice in Province House and elsewhere was to not just make reports, but ensure it will lead to something,” explains CEO Sylvia Parris, “that’s how you get people from the community on board for change: include them from the beginning.”
Sylvia operates the institute much the same way, ensuring educational opportunities for Canadians of African ancestry are best they can be, and making a point to engage the community in this effort.
One of the community engagements the institute is proud of lately is “The ABCs of Viola Desmond”, a book written and illustrated by a grade 2/3 class at William King Elementary School now used in the public school system to teach reading. Published in partnership with the Department of Education, the idea came from the open submissions of the 2016 annual African Nova Scotia History Challenges.
“That’s why I’m always asking the question ‘who do we know?’, because partnerships develop organically, and we always want to be involving the community while we’re serving the community,” says Sylvia.
She adds that “after the Black Learners Advisory Committee was established between schools, the focus now is to conduct research, develop programs and provide services on behalf of our African Nova Scotian learners of all ages,” she says, “we hope to create educational change and give communities of African ancestry genuine opportunities to reach their full potential.”
The work of the DBDLI is primarily research, policy analysis, community engagement, professional and youth development, community education, resources, publishing and knowledge sharing.
Sylvia says her vision for the institute is to be a place where the community can come in and have access to a library with excellent Afrocentric research publicly available.
“Figuring out how dreams match dollars is always a challenge,” she laughs, “but that’s how we got the new location on Cornwallis Street. We want the physical space to feel inclusive.”
To Sylvia, inclusive spaces are important, that’s why she says one of her favourite places in the North End is the North End library, for all the great things that happen there.
Great things are soon to be happening at the DBDLI’s new location just down the street where they will move next year.
For more information, the institute has its Report to Community on June 21st.
by Rachel Sovka
Embracing Freedom and Zookeeping at Cyclesmith
With the arrival of Spring and the fine weather that comes with it, North Enders are going outside and getting active with a Spring in their step. One of the friendliest places to get geared up for the outdoors is Cyclesmith on Agricola Street.
Upstairs overlooking the bike shop, behind a sturdy wooden desk you’ll find owner Andrew Feenstra smiling in his office.
Andrew has competed and coached cycling all over the world, but at home in Halifax is where he’s made it his heartfelt mission to bring freedom to the people.
“It’s a taste of freedom to ride a bike,” Andrew says, “it’s your first accomplishment by yourself as a kid, when you leave your parents behind, you can go greater distances without getting in trouble.”
That’s how he started out cycling, on a tricycle riding around his family’s duplex chasing his three older sisters. Growing up in Dartmouth in a family of six with three rooms in the house, Andrew’s appreciation for freedom has only grown as an adult.
“My daily commute to work is the only twenty minutes I get to myself when I’m in complete control,” he says. “More and more executives are getting into cycling because it’s the one moment they can get away from all the clutter in their busy lives,” Andrew says. In a world of instant gratification when people can’t be far from work or offline, Andrew takes his phone with him on the bike but when he hears it ring, instead of answering, he chooses to “just ride”.
“In the grand scheme of life, it’s what we’re all looking for; freedom, that’s why I love riding,” he says.
It’s that freedom that Andrew wants everyone to experience when they come to Cyclesmith, but customers often find much more. When the shop moved from Dartmouth to Quinpool and then to Agricola in 2014, they took on a supportive community role at local events, even hosting an annual petting zoo for I Love Local’s Open City Event in the Cyclesmith parking lot.
“The petting zoo is really fun,” Andrew says, “we don’t usually get many sales that day since it’s so busy, the whole place is a zoo”, he laughs, “but that’s not the point; it’s just the right thing to do.”
Helping customers achieve their goals and be active is the real point, and it isn’t a seasonal sport.
“In the summer the sales floor is a sea of people, but in winter it’s just a sea of staff,” Andrew says, even though he chooses not to lay people off during the slow season, for the same reason, “it’s the right thing to do.”
It’s a motivation that inspires much of the way Andrew and his partners chose to set up the business, prioritizing environmental impact and energy efficient construction, even when it costed extra to do it right.
“We’ve been recycling cardboard since 1994 when you used to have to pay to do it,” Andrew says as an example. In the design for the windows, insulation and lighting, Cyclesmith went out of its way to make the right choices early on.
One of the best choices Andrew says they made was moving to the North End, were the staff work hard to sell and repair all types of bikes and the flow of foot traffic creates the ideal conditions to succeed.
“Businesses like ours need the balance between industrial grit and a pretty storefront in order to be hospitable to both bikes and people,” Andrew says. “The North End is such a cool, unique community, bursting with social interactions and friendly on-street shopping,” he says, “there are so many independent stores rather than mass merchants; that’s really what makes it great here.”
“I love that we have all our own bakeries and breweries like a colloquial old town, all we’re missing is a cobbler or a blacksmith,” he says.
Andrew thinks part of the reason so many thrive in the North End is because they are all in the same business of customer experience.
“Our senses haven’t left us, even in the age of online everything,” Andrew explains, “people like to be able to come in and touch our product and play with things; it’s like using an atm versus talking to a real person.”
The real people at Cyclesmith are certainly worth talking to, for their extensive knowledge or just a drop-in neighbourly chat.
Andrew has integrated what he loves about the North End into his business: make stuff and be friendly; two great reasons to get active and embrace freedom this spring!
by Rachel Sovka
When you walk into The Bridge community space, the first thing you notice is immediate lightness. The room is bright and welcoming, but not just because Emma Fitzgerald’s art fills a whole wall or the chic designs of Orr Interiors, it’s the same collaborative spirit that brought The Bridge into being which fuels it today.
The theory is that the collision of beautiful people in beautiful spaces will produce beautiful things.
Collaboration has always been important to founder Brianna Stratton, and her mission for The Bridge was to make it easier for people to do so.
Inspired by her experience with 21 Inc, an organization that tours the province engaging and equipping young leaders, Brianna wanted that magic of taking ideas to action to live on.
“The best conversations don’t always happen on panels or in meetings,” she says, “but on long bus rides or late nights in hotel rooms, that was the feeling we wanted to recreate at The Bridge.”
And so she did. The Bridge is a place for people who want to make positive change in the region, and believe in the power of collaboration to make it happen. From board meetings to yoga, hard conversations to celebrations, The Bridge is a place for community to gather and grow.
The upstairs portion of the building is host to private office spaces currently divided between local enterprises like Car Share Atlantic, Youth Art Connection, Halifax Cycling Coalition, Springtide Collective and Push Fitness. Downstairs you’ll find open workspace for anyone to use, where great ideas become action.
Because she didn’t want cost or space to limit entrepreneurs, activists, and creative people from coming together to make great things happen, Brianna knew The Bridge had to be sustainable and self sufficient. With a background in business, Brianna worked hard with her support network to craft a structure that used the flexible rent from the upstairs tenants to cover the costs of the downstairs space. Reinvesting revenue back into the community allows The Bridge to be non cost prohibitive for creatives and professionals who are just starting out and need space to take their projects to the next level.
But the team at The Bridge is clear, what they provide is a hand up, not a hand out.
“We have to stop enabling dependency or reliance on government grants to make impact. We’re helping people and their teams figure out how to make their work sustainable just like we did,” Brianna says.
With various accelerator programs around the city, The Bridge is careful to differentiate itself as a host and facilitator not an incubator. Amid the existing support for entrepreneurs and tech startups, The Bridge seeks to fill the void for community groups who need space.
“We don’t need more redundant organizations, we need a space for them to gather and collaborate not compete,” Brianna explains, “the goal is to empower other people doing something new; we don’t want our message to be the only message here.”
Part of creating a place that fosters diversity and removes barriers meant finding the right location where people can feel like they belong.
The Bridge team chose Bloomfield Street in the North End because it’s a central, neutral turf that’s about ten minutes to everything.
“The North End is where our hearts and homes are,” says Asher Boates, manager at The Bridge and #LiveNorthLoveNorth, “we’re in the middle of a community with great cultural diversity that we love to engage.”
“I feel more at home here than any other community,” Brianna says, “I grew up in Bedford, went to school in the South End, and worked in Dartmouth, and from an urban perspective the North End is amazing.”
Right off a convenient bus route and with coffee shops all around, in many ways the building bridges different parts of town together.
“It feels like a natural fit,” Asher says, and with his background in real estate, he knows the area well.
“What I love since our launch in the North End is how we’ve remained aligned with the core values that we started out with,” he explains, “looking back on the initial goals for The Bridge, we really made the original dream a reality.”
As The Bridge’s official Jack-of-all-trades, Asher’s role in making the dream a reality goes from hosting Mondays at The Bridge each week to physically taking out a screwdriver to keep things in order (something he got up to do even during this conversation).
Keeping things running smoothly at The Bridge has been a success so far, they’ve had high utilization of the event space without ever marketing it. The Bridge has been a valuable resource to struggling artists, executives, and even during the Nova Scotia teacher’s dispute hosting a student improv group with nowhere to go.
Not far from the North End’s MacDonald Bridge, this Bridge is building connections that cross over cost and space to bond great people to great achievements in the local community and beyond.
You can follow The Bridge on Instagram @thebridgehfx, or drop in on any Monday for the weekly open house to check it out, collide with people, and help ideas come to life at 5553 Bloomfield Street.
by Rachel Sovka
You can tell that Kubi Gonul loves his work at Agora Cafe Bistro on Agricola Street because he wakes up at 4am to start his day and is always still in good spirits to greet his customers by the afternoon.
“I’m in this business for one reason,” he says, “it makes you social. You won’t become rich, but you can have many friends.”
Anyone who meets Kubi knows how happy it makes him to serve his customers at Agora, but he doesn’t consider them customers, he calls them friends. And by his warm authenticity you know he means it.
Kubi is originally from Istanbul, Turkey, where he studied architecture and says he spent time working in 120 different countries. He arrived in Halifax in 2005 and has been involved in property management since then. Although he’d never had experience in the food industry before, he is probably best known for his restaurant on Spring Garden Road, Turkish Delight, which he sold in 2012, four years before he founded Agora.
“It’s addictive,” he says, “I don’t have time for myself, business comes first.”
For many businesses the customer comes first, but for Kubi, he loves the North End because the customers are friends.
“The North End is a neighbourhood,” Kubi explains, “the downtown is more of a business, but the North End feels like a neighbourhood should.”
The building on Agricola Street, formerly Orphan Books, was just what he was looking for; it’s size, location and gorgeous outdoor patio were the perfect place for Agora.
“This neighbourhood has potential,” he says about the many loved businesses in the area, “but it isn’t competition. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, and we’re a watermellon.”
Kubi has made the North End his neighbourhood too, it’s where he buys ingredients at his favourite butcher in the Hydrostone.
It’s also where he plays host to local artsits’ work on the walls of the cafe, charging no rent or comission on sales, making the ambiance warmer especially as winter appraoches.
Kubi says when he has spare time he enjoys swimming, travel, history and politics. But since moving to Halifax he says he has only gone swimming in the ocean once in 15 years.
“It’s very cold here,” he says, “not like the mediterranean at all.”
While he prefers the weather back home, he is pleased to bring a taste of the mediteranean to the North End community, priding himself on the price, cleanliness, and smiles of Agora.
Although the Cafe Bistro offers vegetarian and vegan options, Kubi’s favourite dish is the lamb, which he is pleased to serve to any new friends who come in the door.
by Rachel Sovka
CAFE AROMA LATINO
Claudia has called the North End home for many years but her dishes are authentic Guatemalan, Colombian, and Mexican.
She also keeps a selection of specialty Latin American products for sale at the cafe; “I know what it feels like to be away from home and see something special,” she says.
Claudia claims that she has never had to advertize for her specialty cafe and yet was at one point nominated for a Halifax Commerce Business of the Year Award. She says this is because of her priority of quality over quantity.
“Cooking is my passion but my business is successful because I am always here,” Claudia explains, “there are no employees, only myself, but I am not here to make money.”
She explains that her ambition does not include working the 18 hour days that running a restaurant often requires.
“Quality of life is a balance,” she says, “I work hard, but between having money and having free time, I would rather have time to go travel.”
It’s a worldview that has served her well while she studied international business in Truro and later while working in Canadian banks.
“Although my studies and experience lent me to working in finance, I have twenty years of cooking experience so it was still a difficult decision,” she says; “I had other offers to work in well-paying banks, but in the end it was made possible to do both until I chose to run the cafe full time in Halifax.”
When she came to Halifax it was the owners of the building who offered her the location to create something with Latin culture.
“From my first time in Halifax, and I saw the two [Purdy’s Warf] buildings, I fell in love with the city,” she says.
She speaks most highly of the quality of life, and the accessible country, ocean and city all in one place.
“My favourite has always been the North End,” she says, “everyone is friendly and will look after you.”
“People are down to earth in the North End,” she explains, “and so conscious- food waste is less than one percent; everything is eaten and used in the restaurant industry.”
However, Claudia is clear that Cafe Aroma Latino is not a restaurant. “It’s a cafe,” she says “a coffee shop with food.”
Her best recommendation at the cafe is the Ta padito breakfast for $12.50, featuring Arepaheuvo, black beans, and Quesofesco.
Because, like her cozy cafe itself, it will make you feel at home.
Facing the Music
by Rachel Sovka
NORTH END MUSIC SCENE
It’s no surprise to most that the North End is considered an outstanding vibrant arts community. According to a recent SOCAN survey, Upper Harbour Halifax (B3K), that is, the North End, is the most successful songwriting and composing region in the province.
To decide this, SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) combined the annual royalties of members earning middle-class income for their work with the number of songwriters and composers living in each area, and the total population of each region.
Inti Gonzalez from the North End based band Zulkamoon, isn’t surprised and says he knows more than most North Enders about the SOCAN process from his research moving to Halifax from Mexico. “As a musician, I did a lot of digging to understand the system,” he says, “many artists don’t claim their SOCAN royalties because they don’t know they can.”
Many artists also do not earn what is considered “middle-class income” for their work to be counted in this SOCAN report. “There are so many thriving artists in our community that are missing out,” Gonzalez says.
Part of the problem, he thinks, is awareness, but the rest is an inhospitable environment for artists to be financially successful before they can amplify appreciation for their art in the community.
“The North End generally does a good job fostering artists but we still have a long road to go,” he says. Gonzalez describes his music as poetry of the street and the circus of life, which is why he likes the way the North End dances to the beat of its own drum.
On a national level, the SOCAN report showed Montreal and Toronto on top. Of course that’s no comparison to the North End music community where both talent and camaraderie encourages regular casual exchange of local band members as needed. “There is some competitiveness but it’s definitely not as cutthroat here in the Maritimes,” responds Dave Fultz,Open Mic House host and musician, “we all like coming to shows and supporting each other.”
But that mutual support sometimes means that show attendees are primarily other musicians.
Community leader Laura Simpson says that artists supporting artists isn’t sustainable; “we just don’t have that critical mass that we did in the nineties anymore,” she says. “There are all sorts of reasons for that from liquor taxes to late show start times,” Simpson explains, “but I don’t want to find things to blame, I want us to find things to fix it.” It’s time for the North End to face the music.
James Boyle, Executive Director of Halifax Pop Explosion, thinks solutions are in the numbers, “if everyone invited more friends out to live music, things would be different,” he says, “everyone can’t do everything, but everyone could probably be doing more.”
Boyle knows that it’s events like Jazzfest and Halifax Pop Explosion that fuel a creative community and can shape the provincial economy.
But a common complaint among local musicians is the disproportionate amount of artists to venues.
Ryan Veltmeyer, founder of Youth Art Connection, an organization supporting young artists, says the best way to combat this is opening more shows for all ages. “Making live music accessible to the next generation will build up that sustainability,” he says, “engaging a critical mass starts early.”
But James Boyle thinks the ‘open it and they will come’ mentality doesn’t work for venues in Halifax. “Music shouldn’t become about marketing,” he says, “but venues are created when other venues are full. A show doesn’t have to be at the [Scotiabank] Centre for people to go see live music. There will be more venues if people show up to existing ones.”
Boyle’s theory is that Halifax’s focus on business over arts will have an antithetical effect; “we fail to see the arts as an economic opportunity when we limit our perspective to commerce and the export of art rather than creating a culture that makes Halifax a destination known for its art,” he says.
Laura Simpson agrees, saying that it’s buskers and live public art that create the atmosphere which can boost tourism. “Having musicians on street corners, at Squiggle Park and NEBA’s Night Markets, that’s all part of placemaking,” she says.
The North End Business Association is proud to hire local DJ’s, buskers, and musicians at markets and events, and North Enders have been proud to support them. “My favourite thing is to hire local musicians, being part of that feels great,” Dave Fultz says, “it feels like growth in the neighbourhood.”
A growth that doesn’t always come easy.
“We can’t have a conversation about this without talking about gentrification,” Simpson says, “the North End music scene can be the missing piece to creating a community that feels welcoming for everyone.”
Fultz says it’s difficult to mend the cultural division in the North End because “sometimes places like the Open Mic House can be so inclusive that it almost becomes exclusive of other demographics.”
But then, like music to the community’s ears, there are places which bridge that gap. “There are wonderful conduits in the community that act as connections between those divisions,” Simpson says, “places like The Company House and Halifax Backpackers on Gottingen Street are doing a fantastic job of bringing together diversity, and championing arts and culture while staying true to their roots.”
“It’s important to use what’s here already,” Fultz agrees, “we already have a deep system of values around arts, now it’s about getting more people connected and invested in its success so it can flourish.”
Believing deeply that it can and will flourish, these leaders of the North End’s music community raise their instruments to being SOCAN’s number one in the province, and echo Inti Gonzalez’s sentiments that although the community’s wealth of thriving artists may be missing out in some ways, there is certainly hope enough to sing along the road ahead.
Personable Painters, Personal Painting
by Rachel Sovka
The CertaPro building on Iseville Street might not be what you would expect for a successful Maritime painting company, but neither is what you’ll find inside. The understated exterior is positively outdone by the warmth of the staff indoors, starting with a personal welcome from Karter, the office dog.
Like his coworkers, Karter is friendly and personable, which is no surprise since the mantra at CertaPro is that ‘painting is personal’. And so are the guys that run the show.
Armel Roy and Jarrett Mitchell have known each other for a long time and have done business together even longer. A twenty-year friendship between two good men has culminated in what CertaPro Nova Scotia is today.
“We stand out from the rest because we’re business men that do painting not just painters who try to do business,” Armel explains. But they’ve got experience in both. Jarrett began as a painter, and with Armel coming from the management side the two make a great team.
“I actually got into this business for survival,” Jarrett says, “I went to school for computer programing but couldn’t find work here so I was a painter during the summer.” Eventually Jarrett worked his way up, met Armel who owned another company, and now the two of them have been doing this long enough that they’ve seen changes across the whole painting industry. “The main change is the paint doesn’t smell as much as it used to,” Armel laughs.
Over the years they’ve also seen changes to the North End, where they’ve been since 2004. “It’s been great to see the area develop,” says Armel, “we could never have bought our building now with the way property value has gone up.”
“The North End is where the hipsters live,” Jarrett jokes, “it’s a vibrant, young, hip neighbourhood with a lot of draw.” The guys say part of that draw for them are their favourite places to eat like Edna on Gottingen Street, and nearby Shadia’s pizza. “When we can, we try to buy local and engage in the community,” Jarrett says.
A large aspect of their residential and commercial painting business is based on a similar interest in community orientation. “When we focus on the customer and on a system that delivers consistently we can be personal not just about getting it done, buthow it gets done,” Armel says.
“Understanding and connecting with our customers on an emotional level and making them feel heard is part of capturing what they want for their project at the estimate,” Jarrett says, “then we have a process of effectively communicating their vision with our Certpro team.”
It’s this effort that has kept these personable boys in business for this long, and kept the dog-friendly office friendly; because after all, painting is personal.
by Rachel Sovka
Empowered Women Blossom
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but Kathleen Dunn at Empowered Women Blossom likes to say “it takes a child to raise a village.” That’s because the partnership between the children of Hope Blooms and the seniors at Empowered Women Blossom is the old adage in reverse: it’s the kids who are teaching skills to the adults and inspiring them to contribute to the community.
Kathleen is 61, the youngest member of Empowered Women Blossom, and only recently learned how to garden. And she learned from children about 50 years her junior no less. “We’re just so impressed by the kids at Hope Blooms,” she says, “they ask us great questions and teach us business skills.”
One of those great questions was ‘why don’t you guys do something in the community too?’ Kathleen says they all said “we’re too old!” But the kids insisted, and now Empowered Women Blossom is a group of twelve women who are passionate about the North End community.
The group began a year ago as a troop of seniors who were avid supporters of the kids at Hope Blooms. “We loved their community dinners celebrating culture with fresh themes,” Kathleen says, “so they encouraged us to start our own enterprise.”
Now the group meets every second Thursday, and are learning new gardening methods at the Hope Blooms greenhouse so they can start a floral business.
“We think programs like Soup for Seniors are wonderful ” Kathleen explains, “so we wanted to help by growing edible bouquets.”
Last year the grandmother’s of the community learned about planting, watering and draining from Hope Blooms; this year they’re learning new mint growing techniques and will soon take over Soup for Seniors.
“The North End community is growing, and we don’t want to miss the boat here,” Kathleen says. She’s lived in the North End for a long time and says the community feel is coming back again, “I’m sixty-one and it seems to me it’s going back to how it used to be when everybody knew everybody. All the new businesses moving in are so friendly, it’s like the old days again!”
Kathleen has volunteered in the community for years and believes the neighbourhood has a lot to offer, “I‘m really proud of the North End and where’s it’s going,” she says. That’s whyEmpowered Women Blossom is giving back to the village and children that raised them. “All the money we make from selling mint and edible bouquets goes back to Soup for Seniors and community dinners,” she says.
Empowered Women Blossom expect to be in full swing by the end of April or mid May. The community dinners are quarterly with some extra seasonal celebrations for holidays.
PUSHING THOSE RESOLUTIONS
by Rachel Sovka
Welcome to February. By this point you’ve either made considerable strides toward progress or you’ve given up on your New Year’s resolutions all together. Maybe you were determined to hit the gym three times a day and eat a diet of only kale and unpronounceable rare berries, but you quickly realized in January that there must be a better way to exercise and eat healthy.
It turns out there is. But it doesn’t have much to do with New Year’s resolutions.
Kris Andrews of Push Fitness doesn’t care much for that term and neither do the North Enders who attend his gym. “I don’t think I’ve said that once,” he says when asked how people were doing with theirs so far. “We don’t talk about New Year’s resolutions, “he says, “but we’re not the typical gym with buzzwords and BS.”
What they do talk about at Push Fitness is positivity, hard work, and community; that’s how they achieve their goals all year long.
Last year, ever since the company moved from downtown on Lower Water Street to Bloomfield Street in the North End, Kris has noticed some changes.
Like many businesses, what Kris likes about the North End is the laidback feel. “Logistically it’s not as congested here so our gym is friendlier to get to,” he says, “you don’t want to have high blood pressure already when you arrive.” Kris says that the area has provided a real sense of community at the gym, adding that he loves “to see people go to the Hydrostone for coffee or sushi after their workout and be part of the North End.”
Kris not only places an importance on the vibe of the neighborhood, but he aims to give his gym what he calls “a neighbourhoody feel” as well. “The space in the North End is bigger and nicer, and we took almost 100% of our clients with us when we moved,” Kris mentions.
Kris says the location change has brought in a different demographic too. “We probably had 60% female attendance before the move, and generally age 35-55 business owners, now we have a bit of a younger crowd who live in the area,” explains Kris.
Knowing a beautiful new space won’t be enough to motivate people to get in shape, Kris and the staff have included How To videos and healthy recipes on the Push website. “We wanted content to interact with online, not just the ability to purchase sessions,” Kris says, “anyone should have access to information that real people would want to know, not just ‘How to get abs in 6 hours or less’ nonsense.”
“Exercise works best when you enjoy it,” Kris said, “we want this to be the best hour of your day, so if you dread going to the gym it will affect your workout and those around you.”
He’s right, if you show up to the gym looking like you’ve been sucking sour grapes you’re won’t be pleasant to be around and that doesn’t inspire anyone else. “Positivity is infectious and you get more out of a workout when you’re there because you love it,” Kris explains.
Kris says that the best way to help his clients get out of a funk and reach their goals is tailoring the workouts to each person’s needs. “This is really a business about people,” he says, “I’ve got to read people and listen first because people want to know how much you care before they care how much you know, you know?” We know. And we know Kris knows.
He’s been doing this for a long time. After studying kinesiology at UNB, he has been in the business for more than 10 years, and is currently the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Dalhousie swimming teams. “I was always active and played sports, I’m not really a shirt and tie kind of guy,” Kris says, “but I like helping people achieve their goals and feel better about themselves.” Which he did while he was a TV trainer on The Life Network’s reality weight-loss show ‘Taking it Off’, the precursor to ‘The Biggest Loser’.
But if Kris’ experiential prowess wasn’t enough, the proof is in the sugar-free pudding. From 6am to 8pm everyday gym members are there, consistently making Push Fitness a part of their daily schedule all year long despite the New Year’s resolution inspired January influx.
Kris says half the clientele are there for personal training and the other half are performance athletes and University teams, some of whom have gone on to the NHL and the Olympics. “The path to success looks different for everyone but we’re here to make sure you get there,” says Kris.
We’re just glad that path runs through the North End.
By Rachel Sovka
Lion & Bright Cafe
Lion & Bright is the essence of all things North End; an evolving hub of arts, good ideas, and community. It is also the names of oxen that have hauled these same values throughout Nova Scotia for generations.
Sean Gallagher called his Agricola Street café Lion & Bright after these teams of oxen who were resilient through all seasons, each with their own complementary characteristics.
Gallagher explains that on the Bright side (the ox on the right), the café serves coffee and brunch by day, “fostering an environment of openness and productivity” before theLionheart (left ox) “comes out in liquid-courage at night” featuring local craft beer on tap and special cocktails from dinner to midnight.
It’s the duality of the two oxen personalities that requires a well-yoked staff pulling together as a team. “Farmers truly loved these kind and docile animals,” says Gallagher, stressing that the oxen which tilled the soil of Nova Scotia, like the staff that work the till at the café, are deeply appreciated by their leadership.
Gallagher takes good care of his team, closing the café for entire days to train his table staff to be well-versed on new menus. “Servers are storytellers responsible for bringing to life how our dishes became what they are,” Gallagher says. The story begins with local sourcing from Nova Scotia and ends with experienced chefs showcasing recipes that maintain the integrity of the food all the way to the plate.
Gallagher studied hospitality in school, and you can tell. From the lighting and layout to the artwork on the walls, Lion & Brightexudes the exact vibe he was aiming for.
“The vision was to create a dynamic space for any occasion, where creative minds and progressive artists can share their best ideas over great food,” Gallagher says. On any day of the week this vision can be observed in action, from morning meetings to community events and date-night dinners, Lion & Bright’s exposed brick walls are the natural backdrop for North End business people who are known to prefer the work day there than their own offices.
The idea came from one of Gallagher’s trips to Europe. Inspired by Italian design that encourages espresso breaks and community gatherings throughout and after the work day, Gallagher installed a 40ft park bench along one wall in Lion & Bright to bring the feel of communal outdoor space to the indoors. “Because in Halifax’s climate you need to,” he says, “that’s why we always stay open during snow storms, to offer people an accessible and alternative cozy venue.”
Gallagher’s inspiration comes from years of travelling with his parents who worked in international development; the exposure influenced his tastes and motivated him to start an environmentally conscious business emphasizing local food. That’s how Local Source, the powerhouse of Lion & Bright, was born.
Years ago, Gallagher started an organic sandwich bar out of Dalhousie which evolved into a successful catering company. Today,Local Source is 10 years old and has a permanent market and bakery attached toLion & Bright.
The Local Source logo is the lion of Gallagher and of the provincial flag. “I call itLocal Source’s spirit animal,” Gallagher says, explaining that it symbolizes “being proud of our heritage, where you’ve come from and where you’re going.” Like the persistence of the oxen, the valour of theLocal Source lion was needed to sustain a grocery based on reducing waste and environmental impact, growing the local economy by supporting small community farmers, and bridging the disconnect between urban people and healthy seasonal food.
But investing in a different model of agriculture wasn’t without its challenges. “Running a grocery was way harder that I thought,” Gallagher says. Although he had already established relationships with local suppliers, opening the market was not easy, “I realized about three months in that retail requires a lot of consistency and commitment we weren’t prepared for,” he says.
Now Local Source and Lion & Bright are a thriving part of the North End community, working side by side like the strong beasts after which they’re named. Like many kitchens in North End homes, the kitchen atLion & Bright cooks with the seasonal food and baked goods provided by Local Sourcemarket and organic bakery.
Speaking to the latest culinary creations, Gallagher says that “restaurant food has come full circle from fancy fusion dishes back to rustic, refined, good food that has always existed. Now it’s about doing it well with what’s in season.” It’s safe to say Gallagher and his chefs on Agricola Street are doing that very well, and they’ve recently reFRESHed their menu “to focus on what we’re good at,” Gallagher says that’s simple lunch, great cocktails, and showcasing local food. The new menu moves from the original ‘choose your own adventure’ style clipboard to a trendy folder featuring seasonal specials as well as quintessential classics like their much-loved tacos or tartare.
But if you don’t hoof over to Lion & Bright to indulge in the new menu or appreciate the artistic ambiance, go for the company, you’ll probably find a few colleagues and friends there with the same great idea(s).
By Rachel Sovka
As giggles from the nearby children’s day care echo outside the building, Kristy Depper shows off the completely silent audio recording suite down the hall in CFAT.It was all she could do not to giggle with excitement inside the building too, since CFAT’s new German-engineered recording suite boasts the title of best audio in Halifax, with the floor, ceiling, fabric, and even the air inside the walls designed to create the highest quality sound. “If it sounds good in here, it will sound good anywhere else,” says Depper excitedly, “this room is excellent and unforgiving.”
Depper isn’t an acoustician herself, she’s the communications and program coordinator (and “wears a million other hats as well,”) but her background in computers and master’s in photography makes her another asset to a topnotch team of experienced media arts staff.
From Depper’s desk at the office on Maitland Street, where CFAT has been for two years, she sees artists come and go, each one sharing details of their creative projects with her. “We chose to be in the North End because there are so many great artists here,” she says.
CFAT (Centre For Art Tapes) originally branched out of Eyelevel, another artist-run organization with a focus on fine arts rather than media arts. CFAT is all about access to media technology, professional equipment, and mentorship resources.
You may ask, who uses tapes anymore? Although ‘Centre For Art Tapes’ might sound a little archaic, CFAT has been active for over thirty years and still has some vintage tape decks and fully functional equipment of that time, valued by members for resurrecting old archives.
Of course CFAT members rarely do use tapes anymore, especially not now when the facility boasts such state-of-the-art equipment for the modern media artist. “CFAT stands out from other media resources providers because we are very customizable for the artists’ needs,” Depper explains. With audio, lighting, camera, and editing software available for use and rent to both members and non-members alike, the CFAT studio has everything from soldering irons and 3D printers to a Blackmagic 4K production camera.
CFAT’s editing suites and multipurpose projcet rooms are often filled with North Enders because that’s who they employ. “We hire local artists as teachers here to invest in jobs, and they mentor the up-and-comers to invest in the future,” Depper says.Primarily funded by Canada Counsel for the Arts as well as the provincial and municipal governments, CFAT took a serious hit from the infamous film and creative industry tax cut earlier this year.Although CFAT isn’t considered in the film industry, they felt the effects of the tax cut and an austerity budget just like the rest of the creative community. “We’re that weird kid on the block”, CFAT’s director Keith McPhail explains, “we’re not a film company, but still very much a part of that arts community.”
The cuts in funding have especially effected CFAT’s training programs, like their Media Arts Scholarship. “The Scholarship is our anchor program, and we’ve lost $10,000 from the cuts,” says McPhail.
To make matters worse, the trickle effect causes other funders who see that loss to pull out as well. The staff say this is the 27th year of the media arts scholarship and it’s always been a very important part of CFAT. “The scholarship fosters innovation through rigorous training in workshops and projects, equipping amateur artists to be employable,” Depper says, “plus they get a membership!”
Speaking of other artist-run centres, Tom Elliot, the technical coordinator says “we’re all struggling, we’re all chasing corporate funding,” and that chase is costing them.
“It really drives me bananas,” Depper adds emphatically, saying that skills training is the heartbeat of the creative community without which artists’ opportunity for success would be significantly limited.
“We equip artists with the education and experience they need to successfully influence the industry and we hope that importance is seen by funders,” says McPhail.
Depper, McPhail, and Elliott can easily recount CFAT’s impact on the local and national industry through artists who’ve used their training for great success. “Artists have come out of CFAT to have live performances commissioned and their work purchased by galleries,” McPhail says proudly, “we’re a big launching board.”
A launching board that takes pride in its community. Depper says she’s most proud of the North End projects “that bring the community together in collaboration, like G250, or partnering with YouthNet.”
Upcoming events for CFAT include Nocturne later this month, and their video academy during March break where students learn animation, effects, camera handling; and where Depper says she most frequently meets a phalanx of young boys who want to make Sci Fi movies.
These students are often just as excited as the squealing children at the daycare outside the CFAT office, freely experiencing what many artists hope to accomplish and what CFAT strives to achieve in media arts: self-expression and creativity.
The latter was Office Coordinator Tonya Darlington’s idea, where many of the good ideas come from at the office. Darlington has been the office coordinator at ISL for four years and is dedicated to the livelihood of the North End.
“When I get staff lunches for the office, I always try to buy local and support North End businesses,” she says, making Darlington an excellent person to ask for local food recommendations in the neighborhood as well as business partnerships. “We love to partner with local businesses like Hope Blooms and others who are improving the face of the North End,” she explains.
But ISL has always believed in the community from its genesis. When CEO Malcolm Fraser recognized the North End was equal parts affordable, up-and-coming, and friendly, they decided to build their modern energy efficient building on West Street where it stands today.
In their 1995 beginning, Internet Solutions Ltd helped people learn how to use the internet but has since evolved into a digital marketing business with presence in Toronto and notable local clients such as Tourism Nova Scotia and Saint Mary’s University. With a focus on content and analytics, ISL has earned their place as a Microsoft partner boasting a 98% customer satisfaction rate in the annual survey.
But ISL considers the company’s success as important as the success of each employee, which is why employees have no sick days but are encouraged to take what they need or work from home. This “healthy innovation” is the underlying fabric of the business that fosters the corporate culture they enjoy.
Comparing the two, Darlington says that “digital media is like corporate culture; it shows who you are.” Helping clients tell their story and become accessible online in a way that reflects their personality is what Darlington thinks makes ISL stand out from competitors. “Our clients are awesome,” she says, “that’s what we’re most proud of.”
Evidently the feeling is mutual; so whether you’re looking for consultation in web strategy or where to find the best falafel in the North End, Darlington and the staff at ISL are happy to help you out.
By Rachel Sovka
“If I was a dog, I would be a Pekinese,” says Oodles of Poodles owner Sarah Mayfieldwithout skipping a beat.
“I respect everyone in this industry,” says Clattenburg, but like Mayfield, she doesn’t cage her dogs unless that’s what they are used to or prefer. “The North end has lots of dogs,” she says, “and I’ve found it to be a very helpful community where everyone knows everyone.” If you stop by Petite Urban Pooch to chat, conversation is punctuated by the background noise of what appears to be two teddy bears wrestling. The small dogs at Petite Urban Pooch generally get along, and Clattenburg says some of them even seem like they’re dating. Spending plenty of time with the dogs in her care, she well knows who has a crush on who, who are best friends, and who suffers from unrequited love. Although Petite Urban Pooch doesn’t offer grooming, Clattenburg specializes in boarding; hosting dogs whose owners are away for the weekend and taking them for walks as if they were her own.”I love my job where I get to play with dogs all day,” Clattenburg says, but like Mayfield, she has worked very hard as a one woman show in the early stages of business.Clattenburg took over the business almost three months ago and jocularly describes starting a business as “definitely not not stressful!” She says she has worked herself to the bone, and to her credit, has not lost a single customer in the transition.The endeavor she perhaps works at the hardest is “keeping the place from smelling like wet dog.” At this she has succeeded as her customers will agree, and has used her space to create what she hopes is a home away from home by providing her canine guests with lots of room and high standards of cleanliness. Cleanliness matters especially since Clattenburg herself lives only a few metres away in the apartment above the facility. Her hands-on approach to dog care extends to this space on weekends where she shares homemade dog treats, only including natural ingredients that you can easily pronounce. Looking ahead, Clattenburg plans to add a retail component to her business, and start a day care for larger dogs in the future. Clattenburg attributes her success in part to her former manager Jennifer Sinclair, current owner of Down Home Dog.
Sinclair adds that she thinks Clattenburg would be a Golden Retriever because she’s so friendly and good natured. An element of good-naturedness seems to be required by all pet service business owners, and these three North End women have especially nailed it; they all love the neighborhood, love their customers, and can easily imagine themselves in someone else’s paws.Down Home Dog is working on a map of dog friendly businesses in the North End…if you welcome fury friends to your establishment send a note to Meg or Jennifer at email@example.com and let them know you want to be included!
By Rachel Sovka
Summer has finally arrived in the North End and everybody wants to get outdoors!That means it’s patio season in our neighbourhood, busy season for local restaurants, and sun tan season for everyone!“It is definitely difficult to leave a patio when the sun is out and the food is delicious!” smiles Sue Marchand, catering manager at enVie A Vegan kitchen with their roped off patio along Agricola Street.Summertime patio joy is felt by restaurant patrons, staff, and even passersby, which Marchand thinks is collectively beneficial. “Especially on nice days, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces on the patio and their sessions may stretch out a little longer than normal, but enVie servers don’t mind because it gives them a reason to go outside and enjoy the weather as well.”
The first to agree with her is Shawna Maclellan owner of Tess on Charles Street (formerly Chez Tess Creperie), who says her staff fight for the patio shifts to work outside in the good weather. “People do stay longer and drink more,” she says about the linger effect caused by a comfortable patio, “which is both a blessing and a curse,” she laughs.
Economically, many restaurant owners do find that patios increase and extend the average customer visit, but Michelle Strum, owner of Alteregoes Café on Gottingen Street, says people already like to stay a while at the café, even inside. “The best part of our patio, like the best part of the entire café, is meeting our local neighbours and interesting people from all over the world.” Backpackers Hostel, also owned by Strum and in the same building as the café, offers customers the sense of community that North Enders love. “Gottingen Street is a great street to say hi to people,” she says, proving this by addressing several passersby not moments after saying so. “It’s always sunny on this side of the street,” says Strum of the café, “sunnier than downtown.”
Just two blocks away down Gottingen Street, Troy Arseneault, manager of The Seahorse Tavern says this sense of community is unmatched by other areas of the city. “The North End is the art and music hub of Halifax now, and we’re excited for our patio to be a part of that growth.”The summer season is a great time of year to observe, from under the shelter of a patio umbrella and the comfort of a cold beverage, this growth and community spirit.If you need a reason to sit out on one of the North End patios, this summer marks the second year for the enVie patio tucked around the quieter corner of Charles St, and the restaurant’s second birthday in August. But reason enough are the locally sourced vegan dishes and cooking classes they’re famous for. “My favourite thing to eat on the patio hands down would be a Lentil Burger with a side Kale Caesar and a Chocolate Date Night smoothie,” Marchand says.Adding her appreciation for the location she says “It’s more than just a neighbourhood, it’s like an extended family.” That’s why her favourite part of the enVie patio, other than providing more seating to accommodate customers, is “people watching and interacting with our neighbours.”Each North End patio offers something unique; Tess, recent recipient of a Trip Advisor Report Card award, is often called the best kept secret of the North End. Although the restaurant is somewhat off the beaten path, it holds the title of largest patio, seating over forty people in the back courtyard. “The feeling we want to achieve is to remind people of their own backyard” Maclellan explains.
The best thing to enjoy on the Tess patio is the live entertainment among the homestyle character pieces decorating the newly expanded deck. Every eclectic item comes with a story; from the tricycle in the corner to the big red door hung above the outdoor bar, you will feel at home sitting next to live pots of fresh herbs the chefs cook with.
Thrift Shopping: Spring into Style
By Rachel Sovka
“There are lots of artists in the North End; designers, musicians, we all help each other,” agreed Anna Gilkerson from Makenew Curated Thrift Shop.
And the thrift shop owners love what they do as much as the customers love them doing it. “The best part of owning a thrift shop is that it makes me happy to see other people happy,” said Anya Nordeen of Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch.But this winter has been especially tough on everyone. “I couldn’t get my sign out on the sidewalk over ten feet of snow banks for months!” said Melanie Peters of Honeybee Vintage Bridal.
MacAuley seconded this sentiment, saying that “being bundled up during this never-ending winter, we haven’t shaved our legs in months! That’s not exactly conducive to buying a new dress!”
But prickles and parkas aside, everyone agrees it’s time to get to a thrift shop and make like Macklemore: time to ‘pop some tags’.
tucked away in a charming brick alleyway off Gottingen you will find Honeybee Vintage Bridal. Owner and vintage enthusiast Melanie Peters is easy to talk to and lives to make dreams come true. “As a young Barbie fan, I was a stylist from childhood, always dressing up my dolls for photo-ops and planning outfits for my friends.” Now she facetiously calls herself a “backseat bridezilla” who passionately helps her friends create their bridal visions.
Adding her disdain for unethical commercialized clothing empires, she says she “dreamed of working at a boutique, not a mall.” That’s why she loves the North End; people love local and the customers are loyal.
MacAuley says she also gets a lot of business from out of town visitors, “I mean when else do you sell a Russian chinchilla mink in July?”
Anya Nordeen of Lost & Found on Agricola Street agreed with this statement but added that body shape and attitude play a role in owning the personality to ‘pull it off’. Her husband Jay Melanson opened Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch in 2006. They love working in the North End for the same reasons many people do; that good old North End vibe, the support system for local small businesses, and the balance of residential and commercial. Lost & Found loves their North End customers, who Nordeen calls “repeat offenders”, clients that always come back, and even trade some of their items. This season, Nordeen says lately she can’t get enough of denim. “Denim dresses, denim overalls, the whole ‘Canadian tuxedo’!”Further along Agricola Street and further along the timeline of modern era styles, you can find Anna Gilkerson at Makenew curated Thrift Shop, keeping her standards high and her prices low.
Acknowledging the popular bohemian trend, Makenew features a natural world element theme in her local handcrafted jewelry.Gilkerson appreciates her loyal following of customers from the North End and around the HRM, noting that “People in the North End seem to appreciate quality but also want a good bargain, I believe Makenew accomplishes this.”So why thrift shop this spring? Well, other than the nice people you will find inside, Melanie Peters from honeybee said it best when she asked “Why would I spend $50 on a garment when I can support my local neighbor, find something that stands out, and pay less for it?”Check out some of the other thrift shops in the North End; the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, Cocoon Boutique, and coming soon: Big Pony gallops onto Gottingen Street!
Owner: Melanie Peters
Address: 2130 Gottingen St. Unit 101
Specialty: Women’s Vintage Dresses
What’s in fashion this spring: 70s bohemian, flower prints, “Basically look like you’re going to a festival. …Which is great because I’ve been wearing 5 layers of wool for the past 6 months!”
Bridal fashions: Lace, ‘Tea length’ dresses, 1920’s style, rustic, vintage, something comfortable to dance inPenelope’s Boutique
Owner: Penny MacAuley
Address: 5685 Cunard St.
Specialty: Quality boutique labels, prom dresses, shoes, special event attire, “The only secondhand store with fancy cocktail dresses that does alterations”
What’s in fashion this spring: Jumpsuits, summer dresses, 70’s bohemian, “It makes me feel like I’m back in the 70’s again!”Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch
Owner: Jay Melanson and Anya Nordeen
Address: 2383 Agricola St.
Specialty: Unique essentials for the wardrobe and shelves, art and musical shows hosted on site!
What’s in fashion this spring: Vintage Levis, cropped 70’s styleMakenew Curated Thrift Shop
Owner: Anna Gilkerson
Address: 2468 Agricola St.
Specialty: Very wearable styles, good fabrics, fashion-forward modern approach
What’s in fashion this spring: The perfect white button-down shirt
In Good Company
By Rachel Sovka
Photo: Jeff Harper/Metro
The Company House
But The Company House isn’t the type of place to have too many rules; the bar on Gottingen Street is “a place for people to come together and enjoy book readings, good music, dancing, fundraisers, and even weddings” said founder Mary Ann Daye.
Daye founded The Company House in 2008 in the North End where she happily resides with her partner. “We love the North End, I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she said proudly, “It has such a good vibe, even while it’s gone through changes.”
Daye has spent eleven years in the North End and has been privy to many changes, especially on Gottingen Street. “The Company House has helped bring Gottingen alive” she explained, “You can really see the difference but it’s also kept its character; a good mix.”
She credits this success to the support of the North End community and local musicians who literally helped build The Company House.
Daye’s partner also brought valuable experience and support for her amid the challenges of starting out in the business, encouraging her to leave her “cushy university job” and start this adventure.
“Gays are always on the cutting edge,” Daye boasted, “no matter where we go…or are forced to go.” The Company House supports Pride in the North End and offers a queer-friendly space for its customers.
The Company House is a tribute to the families whose history was shaped by the coal miners in Cape Breton, including Daye’s great grandfather, grandfather, father, and the strong women who supported them. The Company House website explains that these Company Houses were always filled with family, friends, good food, a bit of booze, some heated discussions, and lots of music; this is the kind of atmosphere and good company that The Company House on Gottingen emulates.
Daye’s North End guilty pleasure…Edna and The Independent Mercantile, also on Gottingen Street.
A North End Love Story
By Rachel Sovka
Have you ever wondered about the little blue auto shop tucked away on Agricola Street between the two bicycle shops (Cycle Smith and Nauss)?
For seventeen years Bruno Ruffinengo has owned and operated Carlo Auto Service Ltd. in the North End. Those were seventeen years full of hard work and mechanical grease, all inspired by love.
Ruffinengo’s convivial Italian accent resounded proudly throughout the cozy office at the front of his workshop as he told the tale. “Ladies love my broken English,” he quipped smiling.
With Ferrari and Jaguar posters furbishing the walls, and the bookshelf practically bending off its hinges under the weight of thick automobile manuals, Ruffinengo teetered his chair against the desk while he recounted his story.
“Carlo Auto Service was owned by my brother for many years before. But one time I came to visit him from my home in Italy and everything changed”. While he was in Nova Scotia visiting, Ruffinengo met a girl, and his life was never the same.
The two fell in love and, after visiting him back in Italy, she convinced him to leave his job at an Italian power company and move to Nova Scotia where the houses were “better and cheaper”, to take over Carlo Auto Service when his brother wanted to sell.
Although Ruffinengo studied mechanics in Italy, he had to take additional courses once he arrived in Nova Scotia to receive his official motor vehicle inspections permit that hangs outside his Agricola Street door.
Ruffinengo’s specialty at Carlo Auto Service is British, antique, and foreign cars. “Sometimes I only get one car a day in my shop, but that is enough”. He confesses that his shop is hard to see but that it is well noticed when the strangest and fanciest cars drive into his lot.
The trade secret for Ruffinengo is foraging lasting relationships with long-time customers, and appealing to lower income clientele who have him fix their cars because he charges far less to repair parts rather than to replace them.
“The North End is lively and developing,” he said about why he remains at his location. Explaining the North End’s sensation of change that has evolved over time, he said, “It was colourful back then, and we’ve found an even better way now”.
“Mine is probably the oldest business in the North End” Ruffinengo claimed, then quickly added with a smirk, “oldest and ugliest!”
Ruffinengo’s claim to fame is that he can fix anything. “Lawn mower, wheelbarrow, or Rolls Royce; if you bring it to me I’ll fix it!”
By Rachel Sovka
“We didn’t choose the North End, the North End chose us,” says Charlene Gagnon about Centreline Studios.
“The community asked for it,” she said about the project that began in 2010 as a partnership between the Halifax Regional Police, and former Communities and Uniacke Square Engaging (C.A.U.S.E.)
in response to the community’s desire for more
youth programming and activities.
Gagnon is clearly chuffed about the success of the pop-up radio station In My Own Voice Arts Association (iMOVe) project in Uniacke Square. “It’s so empowering for people to realize ‘I’ve got something to say!’ and to be given the medium to express themselves,” says Gagnon, speaking about marginalized groups whose stories often go untold on mainstream radio.
Gagnon has experience with non-profit projects like this one, but Centreline stood out from the rest. “It’s very grass roots. I was really excited about it because it felt more authentic and more community directed.”
“It’s like reality radio,” she explained. “Centreline Studios brings people together, and the North End is attracted to Centreline because it connects youth with the larger community of elders and artists.”
Gagnon’s favourite thing about the North End is the diversity represented in the community. “It’s not just racial or cultural diversity, but economic, professional, and educational diversity. That makes the North End a great place to identify community leaders and cultivate our spirit of volunteerism.” Gagnon believes that the North End’s multifarious mosaic of experience makes Centreline radio appealing. “We focus on the positive; we are very open, participatory, and love to embrace differences. Each diverse contribution is what makes the North End an attractive place to coexist.”
You can tune-in to Got-A-Voice Radio here: http://inmyownvoice.ca/gotavoice-internet-radio/
A Different Kind of Fish
By Rachel Sovka
Mike Merrigan has been in the North End for his whole life, he grew up here, he lives here, and it only made sense to operate his newly renovated business here. Merrigan’s audio visual resource store, Peak Audio on Agricola Street, has been in the North End since the nineties and they have both seen a lot of changes in the community since then.
Beginning his work in sound systems as a hobby while he was a school teacher, Merrigan sold audio equipment as a summer job in a stereo shop, before CD players existed. Now, a successful North End business owner with service technicians boasting over thirty years of experience fixing just about anything with a plug, he reflects on the changes over the last few decades that make him love the North most. “It just has a feel,” Merrigan said of the North End streets he grew up playing sports on, “it’s historical area where I feel comfortable and safe”.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Merrigan confirmed that not long ago the North End wasn’t so artsy, or as comfortable, but things have cleaned up as new restaurants and businesses have arrived in the last 10 years, “Though no one asked me permission to move in!” he joked.
As the North End changed over time, so did the era of sound systems, and Peak Audio has adapted with its client base in mind. With a popular shift to wireless systems and Smart Homes, Peak Audio now offers furniture and lighting resources to furnish the home as well; “We’re always adding to our services to meet our customers’ needs” Merrigan proudly stated.
Merrigan’s experience in the audio business and in the North End doesn’t lend him to concern about the fast paced world of technological development, “We’re just here to do business” he said simply, “we’re a destination location so people come to us”.
Looking ahead to the future, Mike says without worry that “people are already fishing in our pond, maybe we will just need a different kind of fish”.
Taking the reins behind the scenes is Merrigan’s son, Mike (Jr), who operates Peak Audio while finishing his MBA. Merrigan knows Peak Audio is in good hands and although his store still sells old record players, he is excited to see what new kinds of fish will be in demand in the future.
Foxy Moon Hair Gallery
Evyeneia Manolakas founded Foxy Moon, the one-stop beauty shop on Agricola Street, nine years ago. Though she’s expanded services and changed location since then, her black Lab-Terrier Teia has remained by her side since the early days and sleepily greets guests from her seat by the window.
Manolakas moved to north-end Halifax from Toronto and loved the neighbourhood right away. Her shop doubles as free gallery space for emerging artists and the striking black-and-white photographs which line the green and lavender walls are all her own work.
“I find the people in the community want to support the businesses here. It’s very community-minded,” she says. She hopes to offer more do-it-yourself how-to workshops for styling hair, in addition to her regular services: cuts, styling, conditioning, colours and foils for men and women.
Aesthetician Saskia Roch popped in years ago to check out the shop, and has stuck around since – offering facials, manicures, pedicures, and waxing in a private, relaxing room tucked in the back. Her “soul-mending pedicure” – which includes an essential oil foot soak and her home-made signature foot scrub – remains the most popular choice among her clients.
Roch has increasingly grounded her practise in healing and reflexology. All products used in the shop are mostly free of unnecessary chemicals and artificial scents.
“This store is an expression of my creativity.” ~ Penny MacAuley
By David Fleming
As a man entering a predominantly (but not exclusively) woman-oriented consignment store, I expected to feel at least feel a little bit out of place. Penelope’s owner Penny MacAuley immediately introduced me to the best feature about her store – her charming self – and I felt like I could spend an hour there.
For starters, you can tell that before taking the plunge of becoming an entrepreneur, Penny spent some time in show business. As a former professional singer and television producer, she weaves wonderful stories, some involving the very products she has in the store. Shopping in Penelope’s is the anti-mall experience – one part history, one part trendy and seven parts one-of-a-kind. I would imagine shopping at Penelope’s is less of an errand and more of an experience.
For example – I asked Penny to show me her coolest item. It was a 1970’s wedding gown with a six-foot train, trimmed with feathers and a velvet cape. I’ve never seen anything like it. She had tracked down the groom from the marriage it was worn at, who happened to have their wedding photos taken at Foster Hewitt’s (aka, the iconic voice of Hockey Night in Canada) mansion in Toronto – it was his stepdaughter’s gown.
The details at Penelope’s are really special – for starters, she has a “gent’s chair” where she serves coffee, tea, sparkling water, cookies and reading materials to boyfriends and husbands whose other half browses the store. She also serves water and biscuits to dogs who happen to saunter by. The whole experience is warm and inviting. The prices are surprisingly low for such unique items – the whole mix of personality, affordability and warmth is relatively symbolic of the North End.
I asked Penny what she would want in the North End that isn’t there now – her answers (cool restaurants, cafes and real patios in close proximity to her) seemed to all centre around vibrancy – people living, playing and working in the North End. This is something she and I both have in common.
For the record, I did try on a couple of fedora’s at Penny’s request – unfortunately, one of the areas I cannot follow in Bernie Smith’s footsteps is pulling one off. That said – if you love unique and vintage, an experience at Penny’s is not something you will regret.
Penelope’s is open Tuesday-Friday: 11am-5:30pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; and Sunday 12pm-4pm.