Movers and Shakers
A husband-and-wife duo behind a popular River Heights eatery and market is giving Exchange District residents something to chew on.
Kristen Chemerika-Lew and Kyle Lew, of the popular Chew eatery and adjacent The Store Next Door (530 and 532 Waterloo St.), are putting the finishing touches on Lark, a café, bakery and market slated to open in mid-July at 91 Albert St.
Frequent Exchange-goers and area residents will recognize the address as the former home of Albert Street Cocktail Co. and, before that, Mondragòn Bookstore and Coffeehouse.
"We have always wanted to open in the Exchange District since Kyle and I moved from Toronto seven years ago," Chemerika-Lew explains. "That area was the first place we looked, but it wasn’t the right spot for us at that point. This spring, 91 Albert St. became an option; in a matter of two weeks, we went from looking at the space to having a lease."
Most of the rejigging in the space will be cosmetic in nature in order to accommodate the shift in focus from drinks to a full-service café and bakery (although they’ll also be licensed). "We were pretty lucky, Albert Street Cocktail Co. did most of the major renovations," Chemerika-Lew says. "They put in really good bones for us. It’s mainly about just personalizing the space for us, to meet our needs."
Fans of The Store Next Door will find many familiar food items at Lark, as well as some customized to area residents. "There will be more of a focus on meeting some of the higher-end grocery needs in the Exchange that aren’t there yet," Chemerika-Lew says. "We have so many friends that live in the Exchange — we’ve listened to a lot of resident feedback. It’s never going to be a grocery store that carries milk, but rather the kind of food products people are looking for that we can be helpful with."
While juggling Chew and The Store Next Door, as well as a new venture, has been challenging at times, the couple have had plenty of help from staff. "We are a small business and are independently owned — Kyle and I aren’t not working with a massive budget, we don’t have secret owners. There’s a lot of things that we do ourselves, and we’re also incredibly lucky that we have amazing people who work for us who say ‘yes, we’d like to help paint.’"
Verde Juice Bar is now squeezing a few more patrons into its 887 Westminster Ave. location, having taken care of some pressing expansion matters.
The juice bar and eatery, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, has expanded into the space next door, increasing the number of seats from 10 to 30. "There was a business that just served tea, and unfortunately they went out of business after six months," explains Giorgo Mantas, who, with Rob Bohay, own and operate Verde. "Before they closed, we were looking at another space, as we wanted to get into organic cold-pressed juicing. We needed more seats and we needed a production kitchen, so expanding just made sense."
The pair got approval from the city, tore down part of the wall between the spaces to add more seats and then installed a production kitchen to make organic cold-pressed juices.
They’re currently offering a half-dozen juices, which they bottle twice a week and which feature a wide range of organic produce, sourced locally whenever possible. In addition to selling the juices from the vegetarian eatery — which also offers soups, salads, burrito bowls and more — they’ve initially partnered with a handful of salons and yoga studios on selling the juices, with an eye on expanding into local shops in the near future. They’ve also implemented a glass-bottle exchange program to help reduce waste.
The increased awareness in healthy food and lifestyles has been a boon for Verde, Mantas says. "People are starting to be a lot more aware of what they’re consuming. There’s been a big trend in that direction — with three years under our belt, we’ve noticed that every month of every year has seen business go up."
In addition to a regular core of clientele whose word-of-mouth experiences have helped drive business, the pair have seen players from the Winnipeg Jets and Valour FC pass through their doors in search of fresh, healthy fare. "We’ve had a great response from Winnipeggers — people want quality, wholesome products that taste good," Mantas says. "Here, nothing’s frozen and there’s nothing artificial."
A pair of forthcoming pop-up dinners will be of interest to those who enjoy Filipino food and/or B.C. wine.
Crème de L’Essence (1833 Inkster Blvd.) is hosting an "Elevated Pop Up" on Friday, July 12, that will feature a six-course menu focused on Filipino food. Tickets are $75 including tax and gratuity; guests can bring their own wine or shell out a bit extra for a curated cocktail (or mocktail) pairing menu. For tickets or more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-694-2225.
Local wine importer Elevage Selections, meanwhile, welcomes B.C. winemaker Matt Sherlock back to Manitoba on Sunday, Aug. 18, for a wine and food dinner at Hearts & Roots farm, located near Elie.
The meal will be created by Renée Girard of Harth Mozza & Wine Bar, and will highlight ingredients sourced from Hearts & Roots. On the wine side of things, Sherlock will feature wines from the two B.C. wineries where he plies his trade — Lock & Worth and Nichol Vineyards.
Tickets for the event went on sale July 1; they’re $150 and include wine, food, tip, gratuity and a shuttle ride to and from Hearts & Roots. For tickets and more information, visit Eventbrite.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
Movers and Shakers