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Edmonton entrepreneurs take on challenge of launching businesses during COVID-19

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WATCH ABOVE: The timing for these Edmonton business owners to open their doors wasn't ideal, but Community Reporter Morgan Black reports on how several are making it work during the pandemic – Apr 29, 2020

Edmontonians Jessie Gado and Angela Chau-Gado always dreamed of opening a restaurant — they just didn’t expect to do it during a pandemic.

Rosewood Foods had been under construction for about a year. By the end of March 2020, the downtown spot was almost ready for its scheduled April 1 opening.

“Then, all of a sudden things started to happen. We needed to rethink our whole business program,” said Gado. “There was a lot of back and forth. There were delays with permits. But, I couldn’t let this place sit dormant and unused.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Creative ways Edmonton businesses are adapting amid COVID-19

Rosewood Foods opened April 18, offering curbside pickup to customers.

“I’m frustrated. I miss my customers. I’ve worked in the industry for years. I was excited to show people the space. Have them feel comfortable here. It’s sad I’m not able to do that,” Gado said.

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The duo aren’t the only business owners in Edmonton facing uncharted territory. The Wing Snob, located in the Brewery District, welcomed diners inside for just one week in March before the Government of Alberta tightened up rules and restricted customer access.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edmonton businesses grapple with news that pandemic restrictions will last months

“It’s not the most ideal time to open up a business,” said Wing Snob co-owner Wally Baalbaki. “But we’re here to fight. That’s for sure.”

In the Garneau area, the french-inspired Eleanor & Laurent opens on Thursday.

“We’ve been working on this project for a few years now. We were ready to go,” said owner Abel Shiferaw. “The irony is we got all of our permits and licenses the day after the lockdown.”

Shiferaw said opening a business during a global crisis “takes courage.”

For Gado, he’s trying to take the situation in stride.

“I don’t think I’ll ever look back on it in a sad way. It’s just a very unique situation that we are in. I feel fortunate I didn’t have to lay anybody off. There’s just three of us that work here,” said Gado. “I didn’t have to feel the pain of all that.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Are Edmonton businesses following requests to limit large gatherings? 

He went on to say the support from the community, through delivery and pickup, has moved him.

“[Our customers] will never understand how much we appreciate them,” said Gado. “It’s hard to capture in words. It is very, very humbling.”

Over at The Wing Snob, Baalbaki agrees it’s the people he misses most.

“I sometimes play the music a little louder to reminisce on how it was in the first week,” said Baalbaki. “I am hopeful we will get back to that point.”

Baalbaki tells Global News he often jokes with his co-owners about the situation, telling them “if we survive this…there’s not much else we can’t do.”

For each, they are eager to get back to business as usual.

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“What I’ve always dreamed of is: a space that’s full of daylight, full of customers. It’s bustling and full of smiling faces,” said Gado.