MARCH 16 2011 the fire alarm sounded in the business block at the corner of Beechwood and MacKay. Businesses evacuated, sirens screamed and firefighters arrived. Smoke billowed from windows and the gathering crowd was moved back as the fire quickly engulfed the building escalating to a five alarm fire, fueled by a combination of paint, propane, chemicals and charcoal.
The next morning ten people were left homeless and where there once was a thriving business block, there was now a smoldering ruin. Gone were fixtures of the New Edinburgh community; Home Hardware, Nature’s Buzz, Lester’s Barbershop, The UPS Store, Bread & Roses Bakery, The Co-operators, Edinburgh Art Gallery and Epicuria Food Shop & Catering.
On that day ten years ago Tracey Black, her team, her neighbors and the community at large found themselves in the midst of jolting, unforeseen change.
Sometimes the universe pushes us forward, outside of our comfort zones and past our boundaries until we find a new place of growth. When a forest burns trees shed their seeds into the ash, and with time, a new forest grows up from the ruins. A little more than a year after taking over the business from former partner Heather Maclachlan, Tracey faced an uncertain future.
In the days that followed the smoke cleared and salvage began. Insurance adjusters arrived along with a flood of support from the community at large and business peers. Emails, tweets, cards and letters poured in. Rather than wait by the side lines the Epicuria team took a hands-on approach, digging in and cleaning up.
Three things were recovered from the old shop at 419 McKay Street: metal rolling racks, the backup computer drive, and the 10 foot long wooden prep table that was the center of the Epicuria kitchen. Sometimes, in the kitchen and in life, it’s not what you have but what you do with it that counts. When friends at Ishina, Epicuria’s Indian food supplier of many years, reached out with an extraordinary offer of space in their new production kitchen, suddenly recovery was possible.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that we are are very good at what we do and we are highly skilled problem solvers. Everyone knows their job, we all know what we need to do, and we do it.” – Tracey Black, Executive Chef/Owner Epicuria
Business records, insurance and an operating base allowed Epicuria to honor its catering contracts and keep all of its full time staff in place, engaged, and on the move. From guests in the kitchen at Ishina, the team shifted to a temporary space on Nelson Street in Lowertown, all the while planning to return to the old neighborhood – but that was not to be. Lawsuits and redevelopment soon replaced plans of rebuilding; that meant it was time to find a new place to hang up the pots and pans and welcome the customers who loyally crossed town for their favorite Shepherds’ Pie.
“When we found out we wouldn’t be returning to our space, it was the one time I thought perhaps it was time to close. By happenstance, we found our current location and took a chance. It was risky to re-open just outside of our neighborhood, but customer feedback was encouraging, and everyone loved the idea of ample parking.
Being open to solutions or another way is key. My adjuster told me only thirty percent of businesses recover from such a catastrophic interruption. The odds were not good but every day I would tell myself, “This or something better”. It was both a reminder and encouragement to myself to keep working towards reopening.”
Just up the Hill
Risk is uncomfortable; some thrive on it, many shrivel from it, and then there are those who become one with it. They have learned to ride the waves of growth and change knowing that all things evolve. They have become comfortable with being uncomfortable because they understand that transition is temporary and change allows you to re-create and find a new way of doing things.
On April 12, 2012 after months of construction, inspections in place, Epicuria opened its doors at 357 St. Laurent Boulevard and welcomed customers, friends and supporters to a new era. The uphill journey of recovery, relocation, rebuilding, re-stocking and re-opening was complete. With equipment and the Epicuria team in place, business was back, and now better than ever frequented by familiar faces of the past and many new converts discovering the taste of Epicuria – re-imagined.
Our new take is fresh, vibrant, nutrition focused and forward thinking, shedding the comfort of old patterns of business we’ve crafted a new vision.
Expansion & Opportunity
In 2021 Epicuria celebrated 30 years in business – three ownership phases, one fire, three moves, one expansion and a pandemic. In any business 30 years is a landmark, but in the food industry it is an epic achievement!
What we do now, is a little different from what we used to do. We honor our past with an entire freezer full of our classic recipes, but as we stretch and grown we’re excited to offer our clients a taste of something new.
Welcome to Epicuria 2.0. Modern look. Fresh take. Innovative food. New Blog.
With that new direction comes another avenue to share what we do with you. On Blog Epicuria we’re giving space to some of our favorite food narratives, stories and ideas. We feel it’s the perfect way to share our passion for what we do – in the kitchen, in the community and everywhere we go, along with some of the stories behind our favorite local suppliers and causes we support.
We cannot thank the Ottawa community, our customers and supporters enough for your kindness, your business and your feedback over the years. So many of you have become such an integral part of our lives and we are so very thankful. It is an honor to cook for you, everyday.
Stay tuned for a little taste, of the unexpected.
Beechwood fire photo credit: Joe Who
Words & Photos By:
Cori (Corinna) Horton is a Food Marketing Specialist, freelance writer/ photographer and the voice behind the blog Food Gypsy. Based in Canada’s National Capital Region she takes great joy in exploring all things DELICIOUS!