A fundraising dinner in Beechwood Cemetery for Partage Vanier

Businesses and friends gather for a dinner to raise funds for Partage Vanier, which serves part of  Ottawa-Vanier’s riding where residents call upon foodbanks more often than the rest of Ontario

Mirrored on last year’s very successful “Poets” run by Secret Dinner Ottawa, the Vanier BIA and Beechwood Cemetery are once again joining forces with Secret Dinner and Fraser Cafe to host a unique fundraising dinner on August 22, 2019.

In July, Feed Ontario published a “hunger map” that looked at food bank usage across the province. In Ottawa-Vanier, 15 per cent of residents in the riding visited a food bank during 2018. The number of visits totaled 80,332.

Nathalie Carrier, the executive director of the BIA, says that data is especially frightening because if you remove the residents of very affluent neighbourhoods in that catchment the numbers are staggeringly higher.

She adds “when we saw the news last week we immediately called on our friends at Beechwood, Secret Dinner and Fraser’s to see if we could pull off a dinner again but this time as a fundraiser. Everyone jumped on board without hesitation.”

Her lips are sealed on what will actually be served, but is happy to report this event centres on supporting the local food bank, Partage Vanier and the vitally important role they play in the community. “We know the Chef Fraser will work his magic and serve up a dinner to remember” she adds.

Helena Arruda, director of counselling and community services at Partage Vanier says “our food bank serves the province’s most vulnerable people and every little bit helps. It’s great that the business community is contributing to our efforts in this unique way.”

The idea to host the event was born out of the success of the actual Secret Dinner Ottawa event held at Beechwood Cemetery last year.

“We are part of this community and have been serving this community since 1873 (Beechwood) and it’s important to be able to give back in a meaningful way,” says Nicolas McCarthy, director of communications and marketing at Beechwood Cemetery. “We are proud to be able to use our facilities, our groups and our partnership to help out the community and continue to build it together.”

With the event fast approaching, Carrier said she is still hoping other business members will want to get involved, whether it be purchasing tickets or participating in the event in their own capacity.

Tickets are $150 per person and include a $50 charitable receipt. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact the Vanier BIA.

Coworkly draws a new generation of entrepreneurs to Vanier

Montreal Road space to mark International Coworking Day on Aug. 9

From startup founders to freelancers to federal bureaucrats, professionals across the National Capital Region are embracing coworking – a popular trend that’s attracted and nurtured a new cohort of professionals in Vanier.

Working alongside other individuals engaged in different projects and initiatives gives remote workers and the self-employed the option to escape their kitchen table or a noisy coffee shop for ample, open space as well as high-speed internet, coffee and a community of like-minded professionals.


“I was frustrated to see so much of the space of the building was vacant,” Arar says. “I changed real estate agents four times only to realize it was not the agent: People did not want to come to Vanier. I decided to turn the space into a beautiful coworking space to attract them to Vanier.”

Vanier is home to one of the city’s growing coworking spaces. Coworkly is located at 261 Montreal Rd. inside an office building that was formerly home to several medical clinics and organizations. It was only after Ottawa entrepreneur Maher Arar purchased the building several years ago and kept coming up short on leasing out the office space he decided to do something different.

“I was frustrated to see so much of the space of the building was vacant,” Arar says. “I changed real estate agents four times only to realize it was not the agent: People did not want to come to Vanier. I decided to turn the space into a beautiful coworking space to attract them to Vanier.”

Coworkly opened its doors in April 2018 and welcomed its first tenants to a facility that features exposed ceilings, open and comfortable workspaces, glass-walled meeting rooms and free coffee and tea.

In addition to the physical space, Arar also organizes free weekly lunch-and-learn information sessions and provides indoor bike storage and showers for tenants.

There are also phone booths and a quiet room for naps, meditation and yoga.

But it’s not just the amenities that are proving popular with Coworkly users. Tenants say being surrounded by talented, like-minded individuals has helped build their businesses.

SparkPath founder JP Michel says that, in hindsight, he regrets having worked for so long at home and in coffee shops. The online work-ready resource company now leases office space at Coworkly.

“I’ve helped several people with their businesses, and several people have helped me,” Michel says. “I’ve hired members for different jobs, and I have received help or advice from several people who are more experienced than I am in certain areas.”

International Coworking Day

The coworking movement is often said to have started in 2005 in San Francisco by software engineer Brad Neuberg.

“I was confused because I had both worked for myself and worked at a job and was unhappy because I couldn’t seem to combine all the things I wanted at the same time: the freedom and independence of working for myself along with the structure and community of working with others,” Neuberg wrote on his blog, Coding in Paradise.

Fast-forward 14 years later and his idea is now a global phenomenon celebrated annually with International Coworking Day, which will be held on Aug. 9.

To celebrate here in Vanier, Arar said Coworkly will offer the community complimentary coworking inside for the day. Additionally, the company will set up two coworking tables outside the building in the green space across from Coworkly.

“Coworking is being and working with like-minded individuals who support each other,” Arar says. “It helps people escape social isolation at home and the noise and unreliable internet at coffee shops. Coworking helps entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers be more productive.”

He adds that Vanier proved to be an ideal neighbourhood in which to launch Coworkly, given its proximity to downtown Ottawa, large concentration of young professionals and a multitude of restaurants and unique shops in the immediate vicinity.

“What makes me happy is that people from all walks of life joined Coworkly,” Arar says. “We have a sense of community. We are like one family. We take care of each other.”

Mercado Latino

Fernanda Ocampo, Mercado Latino

Fernanda Ocampo, on how Mexican vacations turns Canadians into new customers

“I come from Acapulco, in Southern Mexico. I followed my husband to Canada – he came here two years before me. When I first arrived, I loved the snow, the winter is so different from the things that I used to see in Mexico. I love my job – I’m here working seven days a week. We sell products that come from Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala and other places in South America. Importing all of these products can be very hard to do, I get them from many different suppliers. We have plants, like cactus, in the front window that we sell, my husband grows all of them himself at our home. I like the plants, I need them in the winter time when the outside is all white.

When Canadians go to Mexico and try real Mexican food, they come back and want those ingredients. I can help them to find that here. You can start with enchiladas, try corn tortillas, green and red chilies – we have so many choices.”

Unique restaurants, specialty food shops turn Vanier into a destination for foodies

Beechwood Avenue, Montreal Road and McArthur Avenue each offer unique flavours

Where in Ottawa can chefs find a full-sized octopus, the perfect cut of locally sourced meat, authentic Mexican food and dozens of other dishes and ingredients from around the world?

The answer is simple – come to Vanier.

“I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.” – Filipe Correia, Mario’s Food Centre


“Whether it’s Norwegian Cod, Portuguese sausage, pastries, olive oil – I try to have everything that someone might be looking for,” Filipe Correia says about his store, Mario’s Food Centre, located at 381 McArthur Ave. 

Mario’s Food Centre opened its doors in 1964. While many things along McArthur may have changed over the years, Correia says one thing remains the same: The selection of food carried in his store. 

The shop sells Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish food and attracts customers from across Ottawa and as far away as Montreal, Correia says. Once, he even received a call from a woman overseas who was about to fly into Ottawa and wanted to stop by the shop for groceries. 

“She wanted to make sure I had what she was looking for,” he says. “People come from all over and I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.”

Mario’s Food Centre isn’t the only unique stop along McArthur – the street is peppered with businesses offering delicious options. 

One is a personal favourite of Correia’s – YKO BBQ Chicken, located a few doors down from his own store. Correia admits he eats there more than a few times a week. 

McArthur Avenue is a bit of an international food quarter of Vanier, he says. 

From Indian cuisine, Greek food, pizza, ice cream, Middle Eastern products and the All Africa Market – a trip down McArthur Avenue gives visitors a chance to taste food and ingredients from around the world.

“We all complement each other,” Correia says. 



However delectable the wares offered by McArthur Avenue’s merchants might be, Correia notes that there are many other mouthwatering temptations in other corners of Vanier. 

Mainstay dishes on Montreal Road include pho, pizza, shawarma, smoked meat and authentic Mexican food.

But the experiences are not limited to simply tasting the neighbourhood’s delicious food. There is also an opportunity to learn how to make it yourself. 

Macaroon shop Quelque Chose Pâtisserie hosts French macaroon classes at its flagship shop at 274 Montreal Rd., offering aspiring bakers the chance to learn from the pros.

Meanwhile, Andrew Muckleston – the proprietor of Beechwood Avenue butcher Muckleston and Brockwell – says he offers classes at his shop to help people learn more about what they are eating, where it comes from and hopefully gain a new respect for butchery. 

The hands-on experience helps individuals learn about the cuts and how the meat can be used.  

“It’s a great experience for all skill levels,” Muckleston says.

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Muckleston’s shop sources its meat from small-scale, local producers. Understanding the origins of his products helps him easily answer his customers’ questions.

“People want to know more about what they’re eating and where it came from,” he says. “That the food you are eating is top quality, ethically sourced, local, hormone and antibiotic free – something that you really can’t put a price tag on.”


Grants available for Vanier businesses to share ‘What’s Good In the Hood’

BIA offers merchants a chance to let Vanier’s culture shine and build creative spark

Many Vanier merchants and residents might think they know what is good about their ‘hood. Starting this month, the BIA wants business owners and artisans to prove it.

The Vanier BIA is launching its “What’s Good In the Hood” microgrant program in June to help the community harness and showcase its artistic and cultural talents.

With a total budget of $7,500, the new initiative offers applicants the opportunity to apply for a grant of between $100 and $750 for projects that bring more culture to the community.

“Vanier has a very high number of creative individuals and this is a great way to stimulate that (arts scene),” said Thomas Radford, Project Manager for the Vanier BIA, adding how the programming will be created by the community, for the community.

The program is aimed at artists, businesses, cultural programmers and residents, all of whom are encouraged to propose events that will attract people to Vanier businesses.

Capital Rap Battles held an event at One Up on Beechwood Avenue this spring, The event was part of the Vanier BIA’s new “What’s Good in the Hood” microgrant program which offers businesses in the district the opportunity to host small-scale events.

“It can be anything that a person wants to suggest – a pop-up gallery, a burlesque show, a paint night or an out-door concert,” Radford said, giving several examples.

Shawn Marchand, a chef at Bobby’s Table on Montreal Road, is among the local merchants getting behind the initiative.

In March, Bobby’s Table hosted a What’s Good in the Hood pop-up event to help gain interest in the grant program.

The event welcomed musician Dank Aspects and his talented eight-year-old daughter, Illiyah Rose, to entertain a crowd of all-day breakfast diners with what Marchand described as a unique sound of blues, folk, soul and hip hop.

“Everybody that was here had a wonderful time,” Marchand said, adding that there wasn’t a single person in the room – chef, server or patron – who wasn’t singing along or dancing.

The event, he added, also welcomed some new faces to the popular Vanier breakfast spot.

“There were definitely people I had never seen before,” Marchand said. “It really brought everyone together.”

The Ministry of Coffee on Beechwood Avenue also joined the action earlier this year with a disco party, while Capital Rap Battles held a What’s Good In the Hood event this past spring.

Mini Mozaik – based on an event the BIA hosted annually since 2017 – is the BIA’s next What’s Good In the Hood pop-up. The event is planned for June 8.

The past events success highlight how the arts are thriving in Vanier’s business district, Radford said, adding he feels residents and businesses are embracing the idea of neighbourhood micro-events events.

Radford said he expects the first wave of projects to start rolling as soon as early July.

The number of projects that will go ahead depends on how many applications are received and the individual costs per event. More information is available by emailing Radford at projects@vanierbia.com or checking out the application process online at VanierBIA.com.