Shortly after the expansion, the business suffered a blow: two women who were running the kitchen at the original location quit and stole the recipe book.
A recently-hired Jennifer Houston stepped in to take over, and soon became indispensable to the restaurant.
“That's why I'm sitting in LA right now, on my porch,” she says, “and the business is running without me.” What’s the secret to getting to this place?
Sticking with it, she tells me, because success doesn’t happen overnight. I don't look back and wish I had done anything differently because I wouldn't be here today.
Everything that I did along the way, even the mistakes that I made, brought me to where I am today.
Even in the face of doubt, even in the face of resistance from people around you, if you really believe in what you're doing, and you have a passion for it, it's really about sticking with it and seeing it through.
She spent two years working for independent fashion retailers who became ersatz mentors, teaching her more about small business than she says she ever would have learned in school.
Several years later, she would repeat her decision, opting out of University at the last minute, using her student loan to start a business.
I was looking for something to champion, and, in the 90s, there really wasn't that much to fight for.” Though she had eventually finished her high school diploma, and was accepted to a university Political Science program that year, she couldn’t ignore the pull towards entrepreneurship—a life path that she had been unknowingly cultivating since her first retail job. Thankfully, the realization coincided with an introduction to to a friend of a friend, accountant Barry Alper, who would soon become her partner.
With ,000 earmarked for tuition and books, she bought two industrial juicers. She opened her first full-service restaurant in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, and enlisted Barry as a business advisor and he helped with managing her books, and wrangling payroll, and food costs.