OK, so this title may be a slight misrepresentation of the facts. There are actually three accomplished butchers at the local FreshMart, the baker is really a two-person sister dynamo team and the candlestick-maker and his partner don’t make the actual candlesticks they sell, but they do create all the rest of the waxen wares.
Welcome to Chelsea where we have a little bit of everything to offer as local businesses strive to serve locals, athletes, wanderers, and tourists alike. The village and environs offer everything from oven-fresh pizzas to acclaimed Shawarmas and a bounty of more gourmet fare. There are also venues selling the work of local artisans, painters and photographers and an impressive choice of après spa, sport or shopping including pubs and cafés—one even liberally draped with Siberian cats as hosts.
Although the town itself is anchored east and west in an oddly shaped triangle formed by Old Chelsea Road, Scott Road and the 105, its reach is much bigger, nestled between the Gatineau River and Gatineau Park and stretching north to just south of Wakefield at Farm Point.
Its unwieldy geography draws a unique cadre of vendors and residents who savour the proximity to the unspoiled beauty of the outdoors, enjoy the services of Ottawa, yet cherish the small-town feel that weathers the ups and downs of local politics and maintains both its French and English roots.
The Candlestick Makers
Bruce Langer and Greg Brayford are partners of the Bougie Doozy Candle factory on Old Chelsea Road. Over 14 years they have built a loyal clientele who love the shop’s unique method of candle-making that Bruce first learned forty years ago.
After two years in university, backpacking in Europe, and many questions about what he wanted to be when he grew up, Bruce enjoyed the late 1960’s life in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
“We used to go hang out at Grossman’s tavern and I ran into this candle maker named Willie that had just arrived from California and lived in a shed at the back. He had these magnificent candles and they had all kinds of figures in it and looked like onyx and marble. I asked him to show me how they were made, so he taught me his hotbox style of candle and how to mass produce them.”
From Kensington, Bruce moved to Ottawa and invited his friend Greg over for dinner where Greg admired Bruce’s candle efforts as Willy’s student. Next thing you knew, they were making candles in the kitchen and set up the Doozy Candle and Hemp Solution shop on Bronson Avenue. Many candles, economic fluctuations and searches for a new home later, they ended up in Chelsea.
“The three-day technique that we use for the wax pattern on the outside of a candle is not done by any other candle-maker in the world. The pillar candle, our signature candle, is essentially all white with a half inch of color around the outside like stained glass.”
A unique feature of these candles is they can be refilled once the wick is done. “It’s not garbage. You can reuse it and reduce waste by doing that. Besides people get attached to the design pattern and they want to keep it. They are one of a kind. We found that restaurants and bars and some spas and hairdressers who are clients really take advantage of this feature,” adds Bruce.
Another unique feature of the Doozy Candle Factory is the connecting boutique where local artisans that fit the style and quality of the main store display and sell everything from leather goods, body products, incense, candleholders, and pottery.
“We have really faithful users and clients of ours that purchase and refill their candles and they also bring family and friends from out of town to see our shop,” says Bruce. “People also make a point of stopping here before they go traveling to take a gift “Made in Chelsea’.”
At the risk of waxing poetic—one happy customer shared her love of Doozy’s soothing properties in a whimsical rhyme.
Your many colours shine so bright
The scent you have is just right
enjoyable day, evening and night
Your lantern-like glow
calm as deer in the meadow
beautiful like winter’s snow
as well as reusable
that’s why you’re irresistible
Found where people are kind
your concentric burning design
intrigues my mind
You’re something extraordinary
made for anybody…by Sarah Gravelle.
Doozy Candle is located at 181 Old Chelsea Road Phone: (819) 827-1636
Just down Old Chelsea Road is the Boulangerie dans un Village whose clients say things like “my life would be a sad hungry place without this amazing bakery” or “every day is a perfect day for a triple chocolate brownie.”
The Boulangerie houses a kitchen and a small store that sells sandwiches, pastries, bread, cakes, pies, squares, and cookies. It is nestled between the L’ Epicerie Générale Du Parc and the Chelsea Pub, right in the heart of Chelsea’s main drag.
Although there has been a lot of road construction and walking challenges for visitor in Chelsea over the past couple of years, the bakery survived by curbing its hours and “soldiering through.”
On any given day this summer the bench just outside the store is filled with contented snackers, probably nibbling on something sweet. “A lot of people say the oatmeal cookies or date squares taste just like their grandmothers. If it’s not there when they stop by again, you hear about it, “says Angelique Strauss.
As Kim Strauss and Angelique recall it, they bought the business with a partner 18-19 years ago. Kim moved back east then after running a restaurant in New Brunswick. Angelique had a yearning for her culinary roots after being home with her kids and running a daycare. Their plan was to start off small. But, as they gained a strong customer base they began catering lunches like ones for 150 people for the Royal Ottawa Hospital, and weddings—once ending up with three big events in one day.
“It was just too much, way too much. We’ve really scaled it back. It just wasn’t worth it. We wanted work/life balance,” explains Kim.
Today, the focus is really on regulars and locals. “You recognize faces when Camp Fortune opens. There’s the downhillers and you recognize the cross country skiers.”
Over the years a couple of other recognizable people stopped by too, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien who thought his wife Aline would enjoy a break from cooking and picked up a lemon tart on offering that day. Another certain PM tended to load up on pop and quick snacks at the “Dep” next door while his more discerning security staff headed to the bakery for a special treat. The ladies debated whether that tidbit should be left in the article or not—but finally agreed it needed to be said.
Kim and Angelique’s love of baking was inspired by their mother although Kim maintains today that she can’t eat anything she prepares anymore— a sad side effect of working too closely with rich ingredients. They have also recently downscaled to one kind of bread (luckily my favourite one) because of the expense and hard work it takes to prepare it properly for limited reward.
If their customers are important to them, their staff are even more so—especially the younger workers who come in as dishwashers and kitchen staff.
“It’s different when you work with them. You have great conversations in the kitchen. You get to know them and be surprised by some of their opinions. It’s fun and it means it matters to them that they come back. It’s really special to see them again.”
And they do come back, as do many locals to buy something for a special occasion or pick up the perfect ingredients for an outdoor picnic.
The Boulangerie is located at 242 Old Chelsea Road. Phone: (819) 827-8530
Chelsea is very lucky to have not one but three butchers at their disposal at the Chelsea Freshmart on the village’s east side along the 105. This section of Chelsea is less connected to the park, and more connected to the Gatineau River and the north/south corridor of the highway that takes a majority of Chelsea residents home.
Manager Denis Lacombe boasts that butchers Martin, Pierrot and Ben have each put in between 7 and 12 years at the store, stocking the counter with quality cuts for local clientele and for loyal customers who make the trek from Ottawa or Aylmer.
“These are very good butchers,” says Denis. “They can do any cut that you would like, and you can pre-order anything from them, they’ll do it well. I’m proud of that.”
Denis’ foray into the grocery market came after a career working with the public in beverage and catering and service management in Ottawa. He and his wife decided to take a gamble when they took over the store—a store that was facing closure for the second time in its history.
“You know it took about four or five years to work it and clean it and find the right people to work with us. But it has worked out.”
Over the past 20 years in business in Chelsea, Denis has made many other improvements, adding freshly-baked goods and quality seasonal fruit and vegetables for customers.
“When we first opened the average basket at check out held about $9.00. Now we see people who come here every night and spend $30.00 or more dollars. It is more the European shopping model for many of them. But restaurants too appreciate our quality like the Manchester Pub, and Les Fougeres.”
Freshmart has also adapted its shelves over the years to reflect a broader range of culinary tastes. It now offers fresh sushi as well as a fully-stocked organic section, a plentiful selection of multi-cultural food items, specialty frozen meats and gourmet cheeses and appetizer selections.
And Freshmart is optimistic new local housing developments in the area will also be good for business.
“This year’s been a good year. We’re seeing sales go up, which is good and we’re happy about that. There were a few drawbacks and there was a lot of things that happened with the road closure that hurt us.”
In spite of the setbacks that municipal improvements and landslides have cost Freshmart—the store has always managed to maintain a stellar community reputation as strong supporters of many club, school, and sporting events. There isn’t hardly a weekend go by when local kids aren’t poised at the cash to make a little extra money to pay for these things by bagging groceries at the store.
Chelsea Freshmart is located at 528 Rt. 105. 819-827-8001.
Please see more posts from Anne at thechelseafashion.ca