By this point in April, you may have already welcomed the opening of the fire-engine red doors of Working Title Kitchen + Café and the allsaints event space at the corner of Laurier Avenue East and Chapel Street.
The business had been closed since the province-wide lockdown in December. “We all needed some time to regroup, both in terms of getting COVID numbers under control but also because people have worked really hard this year in an environment that’s not always easy,” explains Leanne Moussa, founder and Managing Partner. Unable to offer her team full-time employment, she made the call to keep the business closed so people had the chance to collect employment insurance or look for other work.
“Our goal this year was just to keep ourselves afloat,” admits Moussa. “We’ve been so overwhelmed and touched by the community support, the lovely emails we’ve received. It’s gotten us through periods that were really difficult.”
The bakery re-opened for takeaway-only over the first weekend of April, with hot cross buns and high spirits. Despite the current April lockdown, Moussa and her team are looking forward to scaling-up their offerings in the months ahead as COVID-19 restrictions permit.
The bakery and café will be open daily with scrumptious new offerings from Chef Christophe Measson, who relocated to Ottawa after designing the Advanced French Patisserie program at George Brown College in Toronto. Moussa lists the expanded bakery service as one of Working Title’s best COVID-19 pivots. “We used to rely a lot on our events for revenue, and obviously because of what happened this year we had to focus on developing our restaurant and bakery,” she says. “I think in the end we’ll have a better product for people to enjoy.”
Also tentatively planned for this summer are outdoor movie nights and live music. “Because [allsaints] is owned by so many neighbours, everything we develop is really designed to make Sandy Hill a better, more interesting place to live,” adds Moussa, pointing to their large outdoor space as the ideal location for distanced gatherings.
A number of small weddings are also planned for the months ahead. To consider the shifting public health guidelines, allsaints will be erecting a few white, event tents along Blackburn Avenue to allow celebrations to move outdoors as required.
COVID-19 has, in many ways, been a promotional campaign for walkable neighbourhoods like Sandy Hill, and Moussa says she was delighted by the number of people who strolled or cycled in from New Edinburgh, Lowertown, and beyond to enjoy the terrace.
“I cannot imagine what it would have been like to go through this year any place else,” she expands. “I’ve lived in Sandy Hill for more than 15 years and there were things I appreciated about our community and our neighbourhood this year that I hadn’t noticed before.”
With the business gearing up again, Moussa says there’s one more thought getting her through this challenging time: “When COVID is done, we are going to have the biggest party at allsaints. It’s this little piece of hope that I’ve held onto the entire year!”