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Cartier woman opens Smoke's Poutinerie franchise

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The franchisees of a new Smoke’s Poutinerie credit residents of east Winnipeg for helping bring the chain’s second location to Transcona.

The new location, which opened at 855 Regent Ave. W. on Jan. 27, is the result of a feasibility study and plenty of crowdsourcing, said Cathy Hudson, a franchisee alongside Charleswood resident Jeff Baron and St. Francois Xavier resident Sam Tamoto. The three also initially brought the Ajax, Ont.-based chain to Winnipeg in 2010 by opening a location in Old Market Square.

"Winnipeggers were the ones who really chose this — we went to them.," said Hudson, 43, who grew up in Transcona but now resides in the RM of Cartier. "For all the clientele that we have at Albert (Street) and on our Facebook page, we asked ‘Where do you want your next Smoke’s Poutinerie?’ The votes came in, and that’s the one."

Hudson said the group hopes to add another Winnipeg location, deciding the area on crowdsourcing once again, and Brandon.

Smoke’s founder Ryan Smolkin was in town for the restaurant’s grand opening, and was encouraged by the opening day’s results.

"The most common words yesterday were ‘You’re finally here!’" said Smolkin, 40, at the restaurant on Jan. 28. "This is great for them, because they’ve been doing so awesome downtown."

While both locations have nearby bars from which to draw a late-night crowd — The Oak is situated right across the street from the new location — the surroundings of each location are otherwise polar opposites. Smolkin, who hails from Smiths Falls, Ont., said there was no hesitation bringing the restaurant to a more residential area, as he hoped to be able to draw customers at all times of day.

Smolkin said the Winnipeg trio of franchisees pioneered the perogy poutine, which is now in locations across the country, and he hopes to see new innovations soon — noting breakfast poutine with eggs, bacon, and maple syrup, and one topped with onion rings are in the works.

"We’ll test anything. I’ll put anything on top of it to see if it works — sushi, pizza, whatever," Smolkin said, noting the perogy poutine was the top seller at the new Transcona location’s first day.

With some free rein to experiment and pass along their successes to the company head office, Hudson said she and her fellow franchisees will continue looking to put a local spin on the Quebecois dish.

"Winnipeg is all about socials, and what’s at socials? Kielbasa, garlic sausage, cheese," she said. "We definitely love the opportunity to have a voice, and choosing one that caters to your local city.

"We try to have fun with it."

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