Community & Collaboration = Rural Prosperity

18930_440576172790861_5834550657881811620_nHere is my latest column from The Times, where I examine entrepreneurship in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario. While the column is about people and “place”, I believe many of the stories I write about can happen in many rural communities across the globe.

Follow your passion. We’ve heard this countless times. Is that what makes a successful entrepreneur? I don’t know but second generation business owner Alex Fida is following his passion. I suspect the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. His mother and father certainly followed their passion over 27 years ago when they brought their hospitality experience to Prince Edward County and arguably founded the fine dining and eat local movement that started it all and in the process breathed new life into an old accommodations property.

It seems rebirth is in the family genes. Alex is a renaissance man, reinventing the restaurant after his father’s passing, redecorating and re-naming rooms at the Inn, giving new life to old buildings, and in his family tradition giving them names tied to local history.

I asked Alex why he has remained in the county. Obviously he has a family business to keep him here. But that’s not the only reason, he sees opportunity and flexibility with the cost of entry to invest being much lower here than say Toronto. He loves and believes in the community and he feels fortunate that the community offers collaboration to work on projects, initiatives and investments.

Alex has a degree in interior design and has a passion for old buildings, preservation and adaptive re-use, which is a fancy term for taking an old building that served one purpose and having it serve another purpose. He has done this not once, not twice but at least 3 times over the last year!

With the support of his family, friends and community he has taken apart, moved and reassembled two old log buildings and put them on-site at the Inn. He named one The Babylon, nodding to its former location on Babylon Road. The other is a cute little building referred to as the Tuck Shop.

If this wasn’t enough, Alex ended up buying the historic House of Falconer in Picton this year. This is a building he has had his eye on for years. Due to his interest he ended up becoming friends with the late Paul Minaker and his wife Marilyn. At the time the price and the timing weren’t right. When the property didn’t sell at auction last year, Alex approached Marilyn and they were able to work out a deal. The fact that Alex would be a good stewart of the property, something Paul and Marilyn wanted to see, probably helped him secure the house.

While deciding what to do with the property, people in Alex’s circle of friends started expressing interest in the building and a community collaborative effort arose as a result. Essentially the pop up shop idea came about organically from the community.

Speaking of collaboration, The Hubb is also a collaboration between Angeline’s Sommelier Laura Borutski and Chef Elliot Reynolds. Alex had a vision for a more accessible, less fine dining experience. He found like minded collaborators in Laura and Elliot. They rent the space and run the restaurant while keeping a family atmosphere and the Fida family involved. It’s a great win, win, where Alex and the family focuses on the Inn, Alex pursues his passion for buildings and interior design and Laura and Elliot focus on their passion for food and drink.

Alex has his hands full, with the House of Falconer needing renovations and he has another log building in storage. You can be assured whatever he does next it will involve collaboration and his passion for buildings and the community.

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