Suppose you are a French entrepreneur, and you are looking for a new business idea to develop in Whitehorse. What do you do ?
For a safe bet, you stick to the old saying “Do what you know.”
Entrepreneur and epicurean Sylvain Belmondo did just that. After many months in the making, the Gourmet Fine Delicatessen was born, a fine French delicatessen store, the newest addition to a series of trendy stores in Horwoods Mall.
For Belmondo, eating food is much more than calorie processing in your digestive system, it is a sensorial experience.
“I choose colourful products with aromatic odours, products that will enhance your five senses,” he says.
Already, the fine connoisseur is delighted. Subtle aroma coming from assorted saucisson sec is drifting around. He hopes to share that experience with customers looking to enjoy something different, something that you might not get with food mass production in a large grocery store.
The Gourmet Fine Delicatessen will offer mostly fine products, both French and Canadian. Saucisson sec, foie gras, terrine, as well as flavoured mustard and vinegar. For the sweet tooth, candies and cookies will be found on the shelves.
“I wanted to share with Yukoners some of my childhood memories,” he says.
More than 60 assortments of tea and a plethora of gluten-free macarons (a French treat based on egg whites, almonds and sugar) are part of the plan, too.
“I am quite happy about the macaron,” says Belmondo. “They come from Canadian bakers who take great pride in making high quality products.”
Also Canadian made, trays of Swiss chocolates in large refrigerated display cases will be found next to the till.
“Keeping chocolate in lower temperatures will preserve the taste,” advises Belmondo. Apart from taking great care of his inventory contents, he also takes pleasure to discuss with customers how to best utilize his products. Inimitable and fastidious, world renowned french cuisine can be intimidating.
“The optimum experience with foie gras would be to have it on rye bread and not crackers,” he says.
It is not Belmondo’s first business venture. While living in Chamonix, tucked in the French Alps, he started a jewelry shop that proved to be a success. It is something that came early on in his life.
“I studied business administration and catering,” he says.
After 20 years in the French fashion industry, he made a big jump in 2009, moving to Whitehorse. Since then, he received his Canadian citizenship, something he is quite proud of.
“I embrace both Canadian and French cultures, he says. “Canadians have a different approach to business than the French; this is a learning curve for me.”
He concedes how difficult it can be to run a business in the North. Transportation costs are prohibitive and finding a suitable commercial space was no picnic. When he finally found the perfect gem at Horwoods Mall, something else came up. Due to a lack of federal licences, most small food suppliers cannot export to the Yukon.
“This is something I learned the hard way: how to get products to Whitehorse,” Belmondo says. “We live in one big country, but yet most Canadian suppliers only get provincial licenses.”
He wishes that would change.
Sure enough, Belmondo doesn’t shy away from challenges. Rewards coming from running your own business are undeniable. He plans to bring new products on a regular basis, adjusting to clients’ taste.
Gift baskets will be available and he hopes corporate meetings will soon include snacks consisting of foie gras and rye bread.
“You know, food is like fashion, possibilities are endless.”