Vancity partnership helps Tacofino open new Gastown eatery
It's a rare and unique thing when your banking partner not only shares your values but also helps you to develop and strengthen them. Ryan Spong, co-owner, Tacofino
How can local small businesses reduce their environmental impact and make meaningful contributions to their communities? Building strong partnerships based on shared values is a good start. It’s a strategy that the owners of Tacofino have taken to heart as they open a new restaurant in Gastown with the help of Vancity financing and support.
The new eatery is Tacofino’s seventh operation – there is another in Vancouver and one in Victoria, as well as three mobile food trucks and a stationary food truck in Tofino. All of them serve fresh, surf-inspired food from the travels of the company’s original founders Jason Sussman and Kaeli Robinsong.
“We always wanted Tacofino to appeal to a very broad range of people,” says Kaeli. “It’s about being able to get fast food without having to compromise on quality or your health. We’ve put a lot of energy and love into making sure the new 3,000 square foot restaurant is a really beautiful space.”
Jason says that the business has always been deeply connected to the communities where it operates and has strong principles when it comes to local and organic food and the wellbeing of its employees.
“We have an inclusive type of ethos and we like to think we appeal to people from every walk of life,” he says. “It’s not unusual to see a skater kid and a businessman waiting in line at the same time, whether that’s in Tofino or in downtown Vancouver.”
Ryan Spong, a West Coast native and former investment banker, joined the company early on and the three are now equal partners.
“This restaurant is going to be a flagship for us,” says Ryan. “We love the Gastown neighbourhood and we want to offer something that’s more accessibly priced in the area. We hope people will see it as a great place to have some food and some drinks and not break the bank.”
Vancity provided a $350,000 Canada Small Business Financing Loan for Tacofino to purchase new equipment and renovate the space at 15 West Cordova Street. But Vancity’s involvement goes well beyond the provision of financial services.
Among the many introductions that Vancity green business manager Maureen Cureton has made for Tacofino is Recycling Alternative, which helps them reduce carbon emissions from organic waste and truck fuel. The organization is a key part of Tacofino’s plans for a rooftop patio and garden above the new restaurant.
“We’re looking to see how tight we can keep the carbon loop,” says Ryan. “Leftover food would come out, be processed into soil through our relationship with Recycling Alternative and used on the rooftop garden to grow herbs that would go right back into the restaurant.”
“We have a truly holistic partnership with Vancity and it’s something I’ve never experienced before with a financial institution,” Ryan adds. “Maureen has been so important to us in terms of building our community of like-minded stakeholders and suppliers. It’s a rare and unique thing when your banking partner not only shares your values but also helps you to develop and strengthen them.”
For Maureen, the co-operative concept of reciprocity is important in the work she does with members like Tacofino.
“Instead of doing something and expecting an immediate return, we look to build strong, local, green economies that benefit everyone,” she says. “That can only be done by businesses working together. You can’t compete with big business and its economies of scale unless you can work collectively. It’s a relationship economy of organizations that share values and trust each other. Because so many of them already bank with Vancity, we have lots of opportunities to make connections that can really make a difference.”