A story that began two decades ago in a mall food court in Calgary is now bringing economic success to many new Canadians across the country.
Niko Tiginagas arrived from Greece with little to his name. After working in a Greek restaurant in Calgary, he managed to save up enough to open a spot he called Opa in Calgary’s Market Mall in 1998.
Tiginagas eventually moved on, but fellow Greek immigrant Dorrie Karras, the man who took over that food court location in 2001, has now built the company into a national chain, with 96 locations across Canada.
Still headquartered in Calgary, Karras is proud of the opportunities he’s been able to offer other new Canadians.
They include Pam Singh, whose family came to Calgary from India when she was a child.
Singh and her husband now own four Opa locations in the city.
“Seeing my parents work really hard made me want to work double hard to have a good living,” Singh said. “If you work hard, you can do a lot here and achieve a lot.”
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Singh now employs several recent immigrants, including Lester Fulgencio, who’s originally from the Philippines.
Recently promoted to manage one of the stores, Fulgencio is grateful for the the life he’s found in Canada.
“Better opportunity,” he said. “Good economy here.”
“I think it’s great that we’ve been able to incorporate all different nationalities, helping them achieve their dreams,” Karras said. “It’s a testament to Canada.”