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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Samosa satisfaction

TC Demaresq browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 7, 2006 at 3:29 PM

Staff of Life Cafe and Bakery has a new addition—a welcoming, front-of-the-house restaurant perfect for enjoying their famous samosas and a steamy cup of organic fair trade coffee. The spot opened about two and a half months ago, and has already grown into more than expected. Ben Rosenbloom was hired by owner Fran Shirazi to run the cafe, and he says they’ve been letting the customers dictate what they should sell. Originally he pictured a stop-and-go coffee shop, but, “it’s so cozy in here, it’s such a wonderful-looking place,” he says. “People come in and they can’t leave.” Up to this point, the front of the store at 6080 Quinpool was used mostly for storage. Rosenbloom says when he moved to Halifax three years ago he had Staff of Life samosas elsewhere, and then tried to buy them from the source. “I would come by here thinking I could pick them up, and the place was always closed, it seemed. But in reality, they would sell you samosas, you just had to go to the back door.” In order to meet the demand, Shirazi renovated the road

front space so that people would have a place to come and enjoy fresh soups, Persian dishes, homemade breads and chutney, and of course, three kinds of samosas.

Open season

The Dresden Row entrance to Park Lane Mall is open for business. The doors opened on November 25, after being closed for about two years because of major construction. The entrance leads to the upper level of the mall. “It’s only about 30 feet from where it used to be,” says Dan Bourque, assistant property manager at Park Lane. “It makes Park Lane a little more accessible,” just in time for the cold winter weather and holiday shopping.

Celebrate with Whiskey

Burnt.normal, a new gallery at 2548 Gottingen, is opening December 7 at 7pm with a bash for its first show, Whiskey. Eo Norris, the co-owner and curator, says the show is all local artists, with an emphasis on functional and cultural pottery. It will be running Tuesday to Sunday, from 12pm to 6pm, for the month of December. A new show will open in for the month of January. “We’re all artists, and we wanted to open a gallery that was kind of a unique space and that sold art made by local people, but also fine crafts,” says Norris. The gallery has been the work of many, and is collectively run. “We want it to be a very welcoming, open space,” she says. “A lot of the art we have is both functional and visually interesting, and a lot of it will be affordable for people to come in and browse.” In conjunction with the gallery, the group’s open pottery studio, just down the street at 2458 Gottingen, will have the same regular hours for the month of December so you can see the artists in action.

So long, Secret Garden

After four years of business in downtown Halifax, The Secret Garden is closing up shop. Mary Stewart, the owner of the store specializing in garden-inspired gifts, says the decline in local tourism is the main reason she’s shutting her doors. “The winters are just too long and quiet in downtown Halifax. The summers don’t sustain the winters in the same way they used to,” she says. The store will be closed by December 23, but until then, Stewart is trying to sell as much of her inventory as possible. Everything in stock, from yard and garden decorations, to scented candles and funky gardening-themed t-shirts, is marked down by 40-to-75 percent. This means great deals for holiday shoppers, but Stewart will be sad to see her store go. The Secret Garden, which is in Historic Properties at 1869 Upper Water, has lots of local regulars, says Stewart, but not enough to keep the business going. “So I’ll miss seeing them and interacting with them,” she says. “I won’t miss the very long, quiet days of winter. If I’m going to spend the days reading then I can do it in a comfy armchair at home rather than in the store. But I’ll definitely miss the hustle and bustle of downtown in the rest of the year.” Stewart works in the store full-time, and has three other employees.

Taking over Taz

As of December 1, three local partners are the new owners of Taz Records. The store’s co-manager Robert Lawrence has combined with Matthew Grimson, a Halifax musician, and Robert Russell, former owner of Argyle Fine Art, and he says they’re looking to expand the business. Taz Records was founded in 1983 by Bob Switzer. After Switzer died in April 2005, Lawrence started working in the store. The three new owners began an online business, tazrecords.com, around the same time. With the recent purchase of the store, they can now grow both sides of the business. “The whole idea was to combine the two operations, to make them work a little better,” says Lawrence. “We were selling Taz vinyl on consignment. So we were two distinct entities with a similar name, to try to get some type of sympathetic business happening.” He also says the store, which is well known for its wide selection of classic rock and vinyl, will have an expanded selection. “We’re going to have a lot of catalogue CDs, some major labels, which we hadn’t been dealing with as new product. We’re going to import CDs covering our main ground in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.” Taz Records has been at 2089 Gottingen for two years, and Lawrence says they’re looking to do a bit of reorganizing inside the shop. But the main focus is to work at merging the tried-and-true storefront and the growing online business. “We have customers from the Helsinki Blues Society in Finland, and a Bulgarian customer who buys rhythm, blues and soul,” says Lawrence. “Our reach is world-wide now.”

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