Toula Sakellaris, Apollo Restaurant; Junior Moutsatsos, P & M’s Kouzzina; Patricia Mills NEO Kids Foundation; Leslie Moutsatsos, and Chuck Barbeau; M.I.C and Di Gusto, (background) Briana Fram, NEO Kids Foundation.
As publisher of Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Living Magazine Group, I learned a great deal about what drives businesses competitively by interviewing entrepreneurs about their successes, strategies, operational goals and competitive advantages.
But in my position as president of NEO Kids Foundation, which is tasked with raising funds to build a health centre for the north’s children, these same local entrepreneurs are teaching me even more – their passion and commitment to supporting our community is just as important to them as building business.
Leslie and Junior Moutsatsos, owners of P&M’s Kouzzina, calculate they donated close to $1 million since they opened shop in New Sudbury years ago. That’s a lot of profit they put back into the community to support hundreds of worthwhile initiatives over the years.
Leslie, a huge proponent of shop local, says all the members of the Sudbury Hospitality Association of Restaurant Entrepreneurs (S.H.A.R.E.) are passionate about their businesses and equally passionate about their community.
“This is one way for us to show the community that we’re here for the long haul,” she says. “We support the community that supports us.”
One of the main fundraisers for the association is Localicous, an event designed to raise money exclusively for NEO Kids. Participating local restaurants donate a portion of a specially designed lunch and dinner menu to NEO Kids. Since its inception two years ago, they have raised almost $29,000.
That is a lot of “sweat equity,” says Junior, who estimates they sold 14,000 meals during the twice-yearly campaigns to date. As well, the restaurant usually sells the Localicous meals at or below cost, which is never reflected in the actual donation.
It is a very generous commitment to help support accessible health care for our youngest citizens.
Junior says S.H.A.R.E. started the Localicous campaign to raise money to support NEO Kids and to help raise awareness that children should not have to travel out of town for health care that they should be getting closer to home.
“NEO Kids is close to our hearts,” he says. “We really want to help.”
Chuck Barbeau, owner of M.I.C. and Di Gusto, says it should be a no-brainer that businesses help support NEO Kids and his two businesses are committed to the cause.
“NEO Kids really need our help,” he says. “We want to help them as much as we can. We really care about our community and about giving back.”
The restaurateurs say supporting life-changing initiatives such as NEO Kids is a sense of responsibility they have to make the community they live and work in better for everyone.
Local entrepreneurs and local businesses have a vested interest in their community because it is home to them as well.
Leslie says they respect the creativity and initiative of local restaurateurs and encourage more local entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.
Sudbury could be a culinary destination for the north, she says.
S.H.A.R.E. currently has 11 members but is looking to expand. The main overriding criteria are that the members be local and independently owned. Considering there are more than 100 independent eateries in Greater Sudbury, there is a great opportunity to expand the association, says Leslie.
Participating members include Alexandria’s Restaurant & Lounge, Apollo Restaurant and Tavern, Bella Vita Cucina, Di Gusto Pizza and Pasta Restaurant, Hardrock 42 Gastropub, M.I.C. Canadian Eatery and Whisky Pub, Mr. Prime Rib, P&M’s Kouzzina, Pasta e Vino Ristorante, Verdicchio Ristorante/Enoteca, Teklenburg’s Seafood Restaurant, and Tony V’s Pizza and Restaurant.