After 15 years as a model and earning a degree from U of T, Amara set her sights on entrepreneurship. After cycling past a boarded up storefront and deciding it'd make a great coffee shop, Amara and her husband Max opened the Good Neighbour. After a few years of success, the two decided to take over the adjacent property as well, and the newly opened Annette Food Market was born.
So to summarize: Amara is two-time business owner and mom with great style and the kind of hair we thought only existed in magazines. Naturally we had to track her down for a little chat.
What was your initial concept for The Good Neighbour?
We wanted it to be a go-to neighbourhood spot. Somewhere we would hang out with our friends and family. And it's exactly that, which is the most exciting thing. We were creating empty spaces that we hoped and envisioned filling with people, kids, family and friends. So it's amazing to walk in and be able to say, 'there it is! Yay! It worked!'
And what about Annette Food Market? Why a restaurant?
Space became available. We are foodies, we love wine, love going out with friends and family. We wanted to again create a space that we could envision spending time in. We took big leap of faith and it worked out!
What was the concept? What were you aiming for when planning the restaurant?
We wanted it to be somewhere that we would want to spend a lot of time in as a customer. We wanted comfortable seating, great lighting. We wanted the menu to be the best cocktails, best wine, best comfort food. We made sure to put nice backs on the chairs so people could stay and down a few bottles of wine with friends - that was important to us!
What were some of your biggest entrepreneurial challenges?
Certainly permits and licenses. We had to rezone the Good Neighbour from residential to commercial, and that was hard. Getting a liquor license was hard. But we had overwhelming community support, which was great and made it not only possible, but worthwhile. We could feel that the community wanted it and we kept going. It’s been totally worth it.
What do you love most?
The lifestyle is amazing. Not less hours of work, but so much more flexible hours. Which is great, we have young kids. We’re also really creative people. When I’m feeling really creative I tend to push through a project that I’m doing. When I’m not, I’m able to take the day off and focus on other things. We’ve been really lucky to have incredible teammates at both places so that we don’t fall into the entrepreneurial trap of thinking we need to do everything ourselves because we do it best. That's not productive and not true either.
By finding incredible baristas, and kitchen and front of house team members, we can divvy up the responsibilities and not feel we need to be behind the bar all the time. They are each great at what they do, and that allows us to focus on other parts of the businesses and continue to improve the way they function. It also gives us the ability to look at opening other locations as well. That was a learning curve but made all the difference in the end.
Should you decide to stop by the Good Neighbour (you should), definitely try the Affogato. It's gelato and espresso, which is a no brainer really. And when you're done that, head next door for the Annette Food Market's Lavender Pimm's Cup. You can thank us later.
It’s constantly evolving but I’ve been really into a more minimal style lately with lots of monochromatic looks.
Worst fashion crime?
Husband says platform sandals, but I think they’re the coolest.
Go to wardrobe staples:
Denim and blazers. Together.
Most played songs on iTunes right now:
When working I love the Indie Hits playlist on Songza. It’s so good.
Amara is wearing our Kastor & Pollux Leaf Print Coat and Cheap Monday waxed denim jeans.
Photos by Ken Tsujimoto.