The Golden Beaver is a combined effort of a husband-and-wife team. Alissa Ahsome runs the front of the shop, a cafe, while Johnny Ahsome runs a barbershop in the back. This fun amalgamation is now opening in the beautiful town of Orillia on May 20th. Their place has always been a favourite spot for the locals, the tourists, and one cannot help but admire the incredible energy of this place.
You enter their place, and you will feel like you have come home after a long journey as you will be around the love and fun conversations of the host. This place also has the most extraordinary antique collection of so many things, and yes, there is coffee, tarts, and you can get a haircut if you like!
Johnny grew up here in the Gravenhurst area but has moved around a lot over the years. He followed in his Ma’s footsteps as a hairstylist then onto barbering. Alissa grew up in Alberta and met Johnny at a salon in Victoria, where she went to university. Together they decided to come to Ontario and start their shop and join their passions.
Alissa enjoys baking and the art of Barista ship and community building, while Johnny is passionate about his craft and games of all sorts. Together they do beautiful business.
How did it all start?
Since the day we met 15 years ago at a hair salon in Victoria BC, we have worked together. We opened our first shop as Tea Beards, a concept shop Cafe/Barbering/game store located downtown Gravenhurst. That became a hot spot for locals to come, play games, get a cool new look and chat with friends. It was working with the community, running events to raise money for local charities, and even starting a dodgeball league that is still running (not in Pandemic, of course).
Tell us more about your clients?
Our Clients are a broad range. It is essential these days, even before COVID-19, to be as diverse as you can. Having a selection of ideas in one spot is vital. You can come in for a haircut or shave, then grab a coffee and treat and even buy an old vintage game from your childhood.
There is even a shelf full of games that you can rent for 1buck a day. Take it home, try it out and see if you want to buy it or even bring it home to the cottage for the weekend. Our clients run from kids getting their first cut to men in their elder years that remember going to the old school barber as a kid.
Locals are essential for us, and so we try to focus on them more than people traveling through. This allows you to build a relationship as they come in weekly or even daily. A cafe is a place for groups to play chess, knitting circles come weekly, and young entrepreneurs who need a place to work on their laptops.
How big is your team?
Our team is kept small with just the two of us. In our previous location, we had more space and had another Barista and a second Barber, Nick the Kid.
How have things changed for you in Pandemic?
Pandemic has changed everything. The first wave caused a rift between us and our landlord, who was unwilling to help us with the high rent we were paying. So, we closed our doors and moved into a friend’s space to combine with him. This, in turn, allowed us to rethink our plans, and soon we sold everything and moved to The Netherlands to start the next incarnation of our shop.
There we reopened as “The Golden Beaver”, there we grasped onto the Canadian heritage with a massive chain-sawed Beaver out front and Canadian flags and decor of canoeing in Muskoka Mounties as well as many beaver motifs. Alissa introduced butter tarts to the locals as Butter tarts are an unknown treat to Dutch people.
Our shop quickly became a destination for other Canadians abroad and created a place to come to and put a smile on their faces that was comfortable and reminded them of home. With Pandemic lasting longer and a second lockdown followed by a third lockdown, this made a move unsustainable, and we were forced to choose to return to Canada.
We went into isolation in Bala for two weeks and came up with the next plan. Now armed with an Ahsome template for a business. We looked at Orillia; it is bigger than Gravenhurst and close enough to our clientele and reputation. We got into a lease for a small shop in the artsy area of the downtown, with a patio. (11 Peter street south)
Currently, we are putting together our shop in preparation for the end of the lockdown. Will it be May? June? Who knows? In the Netherlands, we were able to sell our baked goods and drinks; this allowed us to stay open while the barbershop was closed. This will be the same plan here to handle any more lockdowns.
We are so glad that you are back and hope everything works out for the best. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
Advice to other entrepreneurs these days, Diversify. That is key for any small business so that when one aspect is slow, you have another that will be busy. Also, having them all be similar in nature so that they feed off each other.
A barber client comes in and decides a butter tart sounds delicious and sees a game he/she has wanted to try out, so then takes that home. A client can also be sitting having a coffee, trying out the latest cake, then seeing a man walk out from the back with a cool new cut and shave. Now he, too, wants one. Last, locals are key.
Like beavers, it is critical to building strong community foundations. If we learned anything from working in Gravenhurst (the gateway to cottage country), yes, passing through clientele is essential for your bottom line, but it’s not about the bottom line. It’s about creating lasting relationships with your own local community. Make your services accessible to locals, cater to THEIR needs. Our locals are our family & the entire purpose of our business.
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Author: Ravleen Bali, Content Writer for Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories or comments, kindly email: –[email protected]