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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heir Apparrel

Guy Quenneville browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2006 at 3:15 PM

American Apparel, the LA-based clothing store, is finally arriving in Atlantic Canada this week. The long-rumoured Halifax location is scheduled to open this Saturday at 1482 Queen. “A lot of people from Toronto and Montreal have recognized the name when they walk by,” says the company’s district manager, Rachel Voss. “But I’m more excited to introduce the store to people from here.” American Apparel distinguishes itself by being a sweatshop-free company. “All of our products are produced in our factory in downtown LA,” says Voss. “The people who make our clothes are well-paid. Those who need it get free English lessons. Sewing can be really rough on the hands, so we also offer free massages as well. We even help some of our workers get their green card.” Voss has overseen the opening of many of the company’s Canadian outlets and says she’s still surprised by the amount of support she has received from the local business community. “The response has been great and we feel very welcome,” she says. American Apparel offers a wide selection of cotton clothing, from basics to t-shirts. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that, when a customer finds a t-shirt they like, they often come back, because we offer the same style of t-shirts in 20 other colours.”

It’s Monk time

The Wired Monk Coffee Bistro will open its doors at the corner of Hollis and Morris on November 24. Co-owner and manager Lisa Janz, worked for a Wired Monk shop in BC and thought it would make a great franchising opportunity. When her husband got a job in Halifax, she decided to locate her shop here, too. “There are six bistros in BC, and we’re the first to open anywhere else in Canada,” says Janz. Wired Monk will offer organic and free trade coffee, and treats like scones and muffins. “We have a license, which will allow us to organize music, art and film nights. We have nice area downstairs for that.” What really excites Janz most about her new enterprise is “finding out who my regular customers will be, and helping students with late night studying.”

Ray band

This week, while walking down Morris Street, I bumped into Austin Powers. When I tried to ask him what he was doing in Halifax, he just gave me the usual Powers line. “Yeah, baby! Groovy!” he said, showing his trademark rotting teeth. That’s how they do things at Ray of Halifax Productions, a company that has supplied Metro with mascots, impersonators and singing telegrams for the last 10 years. “All of our impersonators stay completely in character when in costume, no matter what,” says the company’s founder, Ray Brimicombe. “Marilyn Monroe and Elvis were once pulled over by the police after a show. Elvis said he wasn’t giving autographs that day, yet somehow they went off with just a warning.” Brimicombe first started designing costumes as a hobby. He couldn’t find a Gumby costume to rent or buy, so he made the costume himself. Now, Brimicombe sits down with companies to work out a design for their mascots. His clients include the Halifax Mooseheads, for whom Brimicombe and his team designed Hal the mascot. Check rayofhalifax.com for more information.

Third wheel

Halifax may be getting some bad press lately in the aftermath of recent incidents of downtown violence. But one company has been working quietly since July to help combat one problem related to alcohol: drunk driving. Let Us Drive is a service run by Randy Fader and Andrew Leblanc. From 10pm to 3am, Wednesday to Sunday, Fader and Leblanc drive people who’ve been drinking home at the end of the night. “The customer must have car insurance, that’s our only stipulation,” says Fader, who was surprised to lean that the city of Halifax offered no such service. “I’m from Ontario, and several cities offer this service. I think this definitely fills a gap in Halifax.” Cab drivers must have a special license to drive passengers, but Fader and Leblanc get around that problem by driving the customer in the customer’s car. Driver A drives the customer, while Driver B follows in another car to pick up Driver A once the customers are taken home. “We charge a dollar per kilometre,” says Fader. Let Us Drive may only be a part-time enterprise (both Fader and Leblanc have full-time jobs elsewhere), but it’s a cause that’s close to Fader’s heart. “My best friend’s father was mentally handicapped as a result of driving drunk. That’s definitely influenced me in my decision to run this service.” Fader adds that he hopes his service will allow people to go out for drinks without having to worry about how to get home. Customers can reach Fader and Leblanc by calling 209-8602.

Lounging around

Quincy’s Restaurant at 6273 Quinpool recently acquired a lounge license, which will now allow customers to purchase alcohol inside the restaurant without ordering food. Quincy’s new licence was just approved this week, although the change will not be completely in effect until next week after a routine inspection by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, owner Robert McKelvie is excited because the new licence will allow him to make additional changes to Quincy’s, like bringing in live musical entertainment. “Until now, people have never been able to come in after work to enjoy a drink or a nice glass a wine. Starting next week, they’ll be able to do that…Quincy’s is primarily a restaurant, but we can offer so much more.”

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