Ucluelet’s Howler’s Family Restaurant and Tofino’s Tacofino have made the final cut for the 16th Annual Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards.
The popular West Coast eateries are up against 81 other businesses around Vancouver Island, and the winners will be announced in Nanaimo on Thursday, Jan. 21 at a formal gala dinner event.
“I’ll be going there on the 21st with my wife and [son] Khan and hopefully taking one home for Ucluelet,” said Howler’s owner Kent Furey.
Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Furey earned his cooking stripes working for a number of establishments and said his three years spent operating the Wya Point food truck was instrumental in giving him the confidence he needed to start his own restaurant.
“I really tried not to buy a bowling alley and an arcade. I really wanted just something nice and small and just the restaurant,” Furey said.
“But this is where I was supposed to do it I suppose. After two years of searching the whole Island for a good location, I ended up back at Smiley’s,” Furey said.
After three solid months of construction, Furey was able to turn Smiley’s into Howler’s and his newly minted family dining establishment opened its doors to a lineup of customers on 2015’s May long-weekend.
“Just to have this amount of success in the first season for us, I don’t really need an award to prove that we did good. I know that by waking up and I still want to go to work that that’s good enough for me. That’s a trophy right there, I just can’t display it,” he said.
As for the team behind Tacofino—Jason Sussman, Kaeli Robinsong, Ryan Spong, and Gino Di Domenico—well, they’re just honoured to be a finalist.
“We’ve been growing the business slowly and fairly responsibly,” Spong told the Westerly News from his home in Vancouver.
“We employ over 200 British Columbians with about 40 of them on the Island. And that’s with pretty humble beginnings. About 5 years ago there was less than a dozen employees.”
Spong, who has been stewarding Tacofino’s business operations since 2010, credits the Mexican food truck’s overwhelming success to a fine balance of pricing and sourcing quality ingredients.
“We have really great quality ingredients and we make everything from scratch. We charge a reasonable price so people can afford it,” Spong said.