BUSINESS FEATURES

They say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life; a sentiment we find shining brightly as we continue our Small Business Features and sit down with Leia Antunes from Redeemer Dance Academy. 
 
Smiths Falls boasts an abundance of exceptional athletic talent, so it’s no wonder that we have a professionally trained ballerina in our midst. However, it’s truly a blessing for our young performers to benefit from the expertise of such an accomplished dancer and now teacher. The presence of Redeemer Dance Academy highlights the diverse range of small businesses thriving in Smiths Falls, and it is a shining example of the community’s artistic vibrancy.
 
It’s quite serendipitous that as we sit together in the Chamber’s office, we’re immediately reminded that Leia’s dance journey began right here as a young jazz/baton student. The Chamber of Commerce’s office is situated within Town Hall on Beckwith Street. Back in the 1980s, the building’s second level, which was once the town school, served as the home of the Smiths Falls Rideauettes – a dance school that brought the rhythms of tap, the grace of baton, and the vivacity of jazz to life for countless young performers.
 
Leia’s journey into dance quickly progressed. By the age of 7, she left the Rideauettes to embark on dedicated ballet lessons at The Dance Studio in Perth under the guidance of Tavane Symington. At the age of 12, Leia auditioned for and gained acceptance into the prestigious Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division. For a small-town girl, the prospect of relocating to Winnipeg for her Grade Seven year was a dream realized, yet also a monumental adjustment!
 
Leia characterizes this period as an exhilarating chapter in her life, marked by the opportunity for full immersion into classical ballet training. Academics were accelerated, allowing her afternoons and evenings to be devoted to perfecting her art. However, the distance from home presented a challenge, prompting Leia’s return to Smiths Falls for her Grade Eight year. With a heart torn for wanting to dance, and wanting to be close to family, she found the courage to make another attempt and headed back to Winnipeg for her Grade Nine year. This journey stands as a testament to the determination and resilience required to pursue one’s passions, ultimately shaping Leia’s approach to pressing forward in her business ventures.
 
Leia advanced through her personal journey and upon completion of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division pursued dance opportunities in Europe. In her early twenties, Leia returned to Canada and delved into the study of Massage Therapy in Toronto. During this time, she met her future husband and, naturally, shared with him the numerous charms of Smiths Falls, which led to their decision to settle and start a family in the area.
 
Life had a way of coming full circle when Leia attended a mommy playgroup with her toddler where another mom couldn’t help but notice the telltale signs of a professionally trained ballerina in the way Leia sat. This chance encounter led Leia to strike up a fast friendship and a business partnership with Chelsea Gardiner. They both shared a dream of bringing the joy of dance to young people in Smiths Falls. Over coffee meetings at Coffee Culture on Russell Street, Chelsea’s meticulous planning and preparation paid off and in 2014, dreams became a reality and the doors opened to Redeemer Dance Academy in the Gallipeau Centre.
 
Leia exudes boundless enthusiasm as she describes the wide array of classes offered, with a focus on helping young students embark on the enchanting journey of dance. Drawing from her own experience with the rigors of dance, Leia emphasizes that Redeemer Dance Academy is a place where every student, regardless of their experience, is welcomed, with the goal being to nurture a love for dance rather than striving for perfection.
 
As Chelsea’s life took new turns, Leia contemplated whether she could manage the academy on her own, considering the challenges of finding quality dance instructors and balancing a busy family life. This became an opportunity for growth, expansion and ultimately, Faith. Over the years, Leia was able to recruit experienced teachers specializing in Acro dance, Jazz, Hip Hop, Musical Theatre, Ballet, and Modern and Contemporary dance forms. Undoubtedly, the pandemic posed significant disruptions to business operations. However, post-pandemic, Redeemer Dance Academy has made a strong comeback with ambitious plans in motion. The new year will see a move to Hanley Hall of St. Francis De Sales Parish, creating opportunities for expansion and greater accessibility in a downtown location. With a growing team and a remarkable 27 classes offered per week, Redeemer Dance Academy stands ready to engage youth in the joy of dance while in a wholesome setting fulfilling its mission to seek the heart of each dancer and providing opportunities for them to achieve their own personal victories, inside and outside the studio.
 
Highlighting our small business owners throughout October has been an utmost delight. Smiths Falls, with its industrious and talented business community, has vast offerings that make our town a source of pride. Our dedicated small business owners infuse life into our spaces, offering us everything we require with small-town charm and warm hospitality. Join us in recognizing Miss Leia and Redeemer Dance Academy for their invaluable contributions to our beloved town.
We had the privilege of sitting down with Jarryd Lee from Mighty Valley Coffee as we continue to get know our small businesses more intimately. It’s abundantly clear that Smiths Falls is home to a remarkable community of entrepreneurs and small business owners, all driven by a shared commitment to advancing the local business landscape.
 
Ah, coffee, that glorious elixir of life that fuels the daily grind for most adults. It’s the first thing we reach for in the morning, our source of inspiration for the day ahead. But have you ever wondered about the journey of coffee, from the verdant bush to your cup?
 
Jarryd’s path to the world of coffee was anything but straightforward; it was an adventurous journey that enriched his life with a plethora of unique experiences. Driven by the desire to explore while earning a living, Jarryd and his partner, Josie, journeyed across Canada and eventually to Australia, where they planted trees—more precisely, seedlings. Their income depended on how many seedlings they planted, and Jarryd regards this as a formative chapter in his life, instilling in him the spirit of hard work and perseverance that would prove invaluable in the future.
 
While in Perth, Australia, Jarryd ventured into the world of coffee as a barista. It was here that he developed a deep appreciation for coffee culture, and perhaps, it was during this time that the seed was sown for his future pursuit of the art of coffee roasting. As if destined by serendipity, Jarryd and Josie were exploring an eco-reserve in Ecuador, where they stumbled upon an opportunity to try their hand at cherry-picking on a coffee plantation. Coffee, an enigma to many, grows in the form of cherries or berries on trees or bushes. Handpicked with care, these cherries undergo a meticulous process involving the removal of pulp and mucilage, followed by milling and hulling, which ultimately unveils the dried green coffee beans; now ready for roasting.
 
Coffee can only be grown along the equator and typically has one harvest season. Jarryd expresses a deep commitment to ethical sourcing, ensuring that the coffee farmers employ sustainable farming practices and receive fair compensation for their labor. On The Mighty Valley Coffee website, you can explore the stories of the farmers and gain insight into the origins of each bean and the processes employed.
 
But what ignited Jarryd’s journey into the world of coffee roasting? Upon returning to Smiths Falls and settling into a new home, Jarryd treated himself to a high-end espresso machine as a housewarming gift. In his quest for exceptional coffee beans, he found that there was room for improvement in the quality available. Then, as the pandemic swept the world, a fusion of entrepreneurial spirit and newfound free time propelled Jarryd to embark on the quest for sourcing and roasting high-quality coffee beans. This marked the inception of Mighty Valley Coffee, a testament to his dedication to crafting exceptional coffee from bean to cup.
 
The coffee bean’s transformation culminates in the roasting process. The world of roasting technology is rapidly advancing, and Jarryd’s distinctive approach results in a lighter roast that showcases a symphony of bright, lively, and intricate flavors, much appreciated by coffee aficionados. Mighty Valley Coffee eagerly seized an opportunity for roasting space within 4 Degrees Brewing Company, our cherished local craft brewery situated in Settlers Ridge Centre at 275 Brockville Street, Smiths Falls. This collaboration not only provided Jarryd with the space he needed but also fostered a valuable exchange of insights, best practices, and the camaraderie that solo entrepreneurs lack.
 
There are many ways to savor a cup of Mighty Valley Coffee. You can exclusively find Mighty Valley Coffee at The Dessert Plate Bakery in Smiths Falls, a perfect spot to enjoy delectable desserts alongside a freshly roasted cup of local coffee. If you are shopping locally, you will find Mighty Valley on the shelves at The Garden Market and at Your Independent Grocer. For added convenience, you can order online, with the option for shipping or free delivery within Smiths Falls. Here, Jarryd’s passion extends to the art of coffee grinding, where he passionately educates us. We discover that proper grinding is pivotal in preserving flavor and sweetness, while improper grinding can accentuate bitterness and astringency. The nuances of grind size become evident – fine for espresso machines, medium for regular drip, and coarse for the French press.
 
More recently, Mighty Valley Coffee has embarked on an exciting new venture with a mobile cafe – the Mighty Valley Coffee truck, a familiar sight around town and at the hottest local events. Jarryd finds immense joy in the dynamic pace and the opportunity to introduce his beans to a diverse range of coffee lovers. When asked about the most surprising aspect of starting a new business, Jarryd laughs and reveals that he was perhaps taken aback by the need to wear numerous hats. While his primary role is as a coffee roaster, the operation of a small business entails roles as diverse as website design, social media management, bookkeeping, and more – a sentiment shared by many small business owners.
 
As we celebrate Small Business Month, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know our small business owners more intimately. It’s abundantly clear that running a small business demands courage, discipline, vision, and unyielding determination. We are continually inspired by their dedication to our community and invite you to join us in honoring the invaluable contributions they make to our town.
Welcome to the celebration of Small Business Month, a dedicated time to cast a well-deserved spotlight on our exceptional local businesses and remarkable entrepreneurs throughout October.
 
In the spotlight this week is the delightful small business owner, Carolynn McTavish, and her charming establishment, The Cozy Cottage gift shop. Within the walls of this quaint store, you’ll encounter the whimsical and fun-loving spirit of Carolynn shining brightly in each item she proudly presents. Nestled in the heart of our picturesque community on Beckwith Street, The Cozy Cottage stands as a haven for those in pursuit of unique treasures, each one telling a story.
 
Carolynn’s journey to Smiths Falls, although not native to the area, began almost 16 years ago, as she yearned for the ambiance of a small town and a deep sense of community. Carolynn’s passion for creative expression and her readiness to seize opportunities led her to open The Cozy Cottage’s doors in January 2023 when an inviting storefront space became available on Beckwith Street. Carolynn’s own artistic pursuits led her to explore the world of amigurumi in 2017 – adorable, crocheted stuffed creatures that captivate hearts, both young and old. You’ll find her own adorable creations on display at The Cozy Cottage, where they are truly a sight to behold.
 
Carolynn’s  quirky and lively persona on display at The Cozy Cottage, may be attributed to her formal career in the Radiation and Decontamination field in the Nuclear Medicine Industry, which is often intense. The Cozy Cottage serves as her creative outlet, a place where her vibrant personality shines. Her commitment to both her own business and the local community can be seen in her engaging presence on social media, where she not only promotes her shop but also adds laughter and camaraderie by visiting neighboring businesses, sharing jokes, and playing tricks.
 
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of embarking on her own business journey, Carolynn expressed her appreciation for the strong sense of community among fellow business owners and the joy of connecting with new people. 
 
The Cozy Cottage proudly showcases the work of local artisans, featuring sublimation, pyrography, chainsaw art, pottery, resin, hand-crafted soap, candles, cutting boards, and much more. Whether you’re seeking a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a special treat for yourself, you’ll find shelves brimming with extraordinary offerings.
 
The Cozy Cottage is a cherished addition to our business community that reflects the spirit of Small Business Month, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to show your support by dropping by and saying hello, as we collectively acknowledge the invaluable contributions of small businesses in Smiths Falls.
 
During Small Business Month, we are committed to highlighting the invaluable contributions made by our local business owners to our community. This week, our spotlight is on Smith’s Shoes its owner, Cyril Wells. A visit to Smiths Shoes is not just about shopping for footwear; it’s a journey that transports us to a bygone era where exceptional service and unwavering dedication are elevated to new heights.
 
Upon first arriving, we find Cy diligently sweeping the sidewalk, a daily ritual he performs to ensure a warm and inviting first impression. This simple yet profound act serves as a constant reminder that our small businesses are deeply rooted in our public spaces and community, underlining their unwavering commitment to our town.
 
At Smiths Shoes where hospitality and exceptional service take precedence, the journey to the perfect shoe commences with a friendly chat and catching up. During this interaction, you’re likely to be asked about the existence of a store file. A store file in a shoe shop? Indeed! Surprisingly, within the confines of Smiths Shoes, an extensive archive of meticulously maintained records spanning over 26 years can be found in numerous drawers. While one might assume that finding a shoe is a straightforward task, we have discovered there is an art to this, made easier with the knowledge that Cy has honed with 42 years of experience.
 
Cy elucidates the analogy that the foot serves as the foundation of a house, emphasizing its vital role. Any imperfection in this foundation can lead to various issues such as sore knees, hip discomfort, and poor posture. Within these files lie essential information pertaining to foot size, width, and even a foot print (yes, a stamp pad print of your foot and its pressure points)! Using the The Brannock Device, invented in 1927, the length, width, and arch length of the human foot are measured. Cy explains that length may not be the best measurement and that in his experience the arch length read by the Brannock Device is more accurate.
For instance, my foot length measured as a 5, but my arch length registered as a 6.5 indicating that I have been wearing the wrong size for years! Cy explains that this is common, a realization that astonishes approximately 50% of his customers. The level of precision offered is truly remarkable; it extends to measuring the width of a foot, ranging from AA (the narrowest) to 4E (the widest). Smiths Shoes stocks an array of shoes tailored to accommodate all widths and stocks women’s sizes 4-13 and men’s 7-16, ensuring a perfect fit for your feet in your new footwear. 
 
The file drawers, however, hold much more than just footprints and measurements; they weave a narrative. They stand as a testament to the exceptional level of service and expertise offered here. A brief glance reveals that customers travel from all corners of the Ottawa Valley and even as far as Niagara Falls, Oakville, and New Brunswick. Cy remains keenly attuned to the needs of those travelling from a distance, ensuring he always has menus from the local restaurants on hand. This seemingly small gesture is actually quite profound and showcases the collaborative spirit among small businesses in our quaint town, working in harmony to promote their shared interests — a unity not found in larger commercial hubs.
 
With the holiday season fast approaching, Smiths Shoes has an extensive selection of quality gifts, including leather hand gloves, designer theft-proof handbags, and exceptional socks backed by a lifetime guarantee. Naturally, the most coveted items on everyone’s wish list are the Blundstones and Birkenstocks, adored by the young and old alike. For those with a store file, surprising them with a flawlessly fitted new pair of shoes couldn’t be more effortless. Cy takes immense pride in ensuring the entire experience is as seamless as can be and offers year-round gift wrapping services as an extra touch he hopes customers will cherish.
 
Throughout Small Business Month, we have thoroughly enjoyed delving into the intricate stories of our small business community. What consistently stands out in the narratives shared by our small business owners is their profound dedication to community, shared values, and unwavering commitment to exceptional customer service. The role of a small business owner is undoubtedly significant and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our businesses for enriching our communities, fostering a warm and vibrant atmosphere, and delivering service that makes us feel truly at home. Smiths Shoes will soon be celebrating 80 years of service and hope that you will help us in celebrating and congratulating them on this incredible milestone.
Welcome to our Small Business Features, a time to shine a spotlight on the remarkable entrepreneurs who make our community stronger. In this celebration of resilience and determination, Natatia Gemmell stands out as a paragon of strength. Managing a small business is no easy feat, and Natatia’s unwavering determination is evident in every aspect of her work.
 
As you step through the doors of Functional Performance Fitness, an immediate sense of immaculate perfection and warm hospitality greets you. The air seems to carry a whisper of inspiration, hinting at the great things that are about to unfold within. This gym has recently undergone an impressive renovation and expansion, leaving nothing to be desired. With its lofty ceilings, state-of-the-art equipment, and thoughtful program offerings, it caters to fitness enthusiasts of all levels. The outstanding staff makes sure that whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the fitness scene, you’ll feel right at home from the moment you arrive.
 
But Natatia’s journey to success was far from instantaneous. Her relentless work began in 2004 when she started personal training in her home gym. In 2018, with an unwavering growth mindset, she seized the opportunity to create a 24-hour fitness center at Settlers Ridge Centre. This marked the transformation of her brand into Functional Performance Fitness, where she wholeheartedly dedicated herself to providing clients with a top-notch fitness experience that swiftly became the go-to choice in Smiths Falls and its surrounding areas.
 
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world in 2020 and 2021, Natatia refused to be deterred. Recognizing the essential role of fitness in combating the stress of the pandemic, she pivoted her business to offer online streaming services, ensuring that her members continued to receive the unparalleled service and sense of community they had come to cherish. As we emerged from the pandemic, Natatia’s unwavering commitment to growth led to an exciting new endeavor. She expanded her offerings to include CrossFit and a beautiful extension to accommodate her growing business.
 
Small businesses form the backbone of our community, and today, we honor and celebrate Natatia and Functional Performance Fitness for their incredible success. Join us in congratulating them on their journey of dedication and unwavering determination.
 
For more information, stop by and say hi at #14 – 275 Brockville Street, Smiths Falls. Or visit  
 
 

During Small Business Month in October, we’re dedicated to highlighting and celebrating our local small businesses. This week, we turn the spotlight on RCL Automotive in Smiths Falls, a small family-owned enterprise led by the dedicated proprietors, Chris and Leigh Craig. RCL’s name carries a double significance – “Reliable, Courteous, and Loyal Service” is their official tagline, reflecting both their commitment to exceptional service and the very essence of a small family-run business, with the involvement of their daughter, Roslyn (Roslyn, Chris, Leigh – RCL). Family and community values serve as the driving force behind this small-town establishment. When asked how their employees would describe their work experience and the leadership style, Chris expressed, “I hope that they would see us as a family-first environment, a place where they can feel valued, connected, and understand that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process.” This sense of community extends beyond the workplace, and drives their commitment to community involvement.

Once the workday ends, the real work begins. Chris has been a long-standing member of the Civitan Club, a board member for the Lombardy Agricultural Society, and a dedicated ambassador in the Build a Mountain of Food Campaign. These are crucial community organizations that identify local needs and work tirelessly to provide much needed resources and enhance the strength, resilience, and connections within our communities.

Chris’s dream of having his own shop dates back to his high school years when he participated in Small Engines Class and engaged in local competitions. His innate curiosity about how things work ignited at a young age, and this passion remains evident today in the high-quality workmanship and dedication to serving the community with top-notch car care and tire services. This time of year, the shop bustles with activity as they prepare the community for safe winter navigation. Chris highlights the importance of spring maintenance, as a comprehensive spring checkup can enhance a vehicle’s performance and extend its lifespan.

We inquired whether Chris would recommend pursuing a career in the trades to young people considering their academic and professional paths. With enthusiasm, he emphasized the multitude of opportunities the trades have provided him. Being a small business owner in the trades has allowed him to follow his passion while giving back to the community. He pointed out that in the early 2000s, computer programming was a highly sought-after career path, potentially diminishing interest in the trades. However, as our world evolves, the merging of computers and the trades presents exciting prospects. Computers are now integral to virtually every aspect of our lives and the trades industry. For instance, today’s cars can even drive themselves, a concept unimaginable just half a century ago. Understanding this connection between technology and the trades is crucial to staying relevant in today’s dynamic marketplaces.

The shop plays an integral role in the fabric of our community. RCL will not only provide reliable, courteous service and win your loyalty, it is a social hub where you will likely bump into a neighbor or friend, and a place where customers and owners know each other by name. Small town service and small town connections are perhaps something that we have grown accustomed to but should not be taken for granted and we should never underestimate their value.

As we shine a light on small businesses this October, it is evident that our local business community is diverse, dynamic, and incredibly industrious. Supporting these local businesses has an immediate and profound impact on our community. Small businesses, such as RCL Automotive, play a pivotal role in the local economy by generating jobs, sourcing from local suppliers, and circulating funds within the community. They are the lifeblood of our community, delivering top-notch service and workmanship. Let’s express our gratitude to Chris and Leigh for their unwavering support through volunteer efforts and for providing a reliable service that keeps us all safer on the roads.