December 18, 2010
Meeting The Man Behind WannawafelTweet
I think it was one of those "stars were aligned" sequence of events that lead me and my wife to meeting up with Renaat Marchand, the entrepreneur behind Wannawafel.
It started September 22, 2010, when my wife and I were relaxing after getting the kids to sleep, watching the Dragon's Den on CBC. What a great show, with benefits for everyone: the Dragons get to screen tons of offers they might not have otherwise ever seen, the entrepreneurs get their pitch aired on national television (even if they don't get a deal, they get the exposure), CBC has a show that doesn't need a lot of script writers (at least compared to a sitcom), and viewers like us get some solid entertainment in the form of some really bad ideas being shot down. Bring it on!
As we watched that episode, the story of Wannawafel caught our attention. The owner of a small Belgian waffle business, Renaat, wanted to expand his business into a franchise. We talked a lot about that pitch during the commercial break, about how real and honest Renaat seemed to be, how good his idea was, and how very tasty those darned waffles looked. I'm pretty sure we both needed to grab a snack shortly thereafter.
I talked with other people at work the next day, and found that many of my co-workers had felt the same way about the Wannawafel pitch. They couldn't wait until someone started one up locally! They wanted to try some, too.
Fast forward a week and a half to September 25. I was attending a work conference in Victoria, BC, and my wife came along for the trip. We were doing some shopping before the conference, just wandering around aimlessly in downtown Victoria. We were doing a lot of talking as we walked, and she asked, "wasn't that waffle guy on Dragon's Den from Victoria?" I replied that I thought he was, and we reminisced about the episode as we continued to walk.
About 20 minutes later, we literally stumbled upon the Wannawafel store in Market Square. Honestly it was the Lululemon sign up the block that caught my wife's eye, not Market Square. We were both amazed, it was very much a "deja vu" type of feeling, having just minutes before laughed at how ironic it would be if we ran into the place.
We ventured into the store around 7:30 pm. There was some sort of street fair going on, and we had to explain to the ticket sellers that we were only interested in buying a waffle. They let us pass without a problem, and we found the one and only Renaat right there in the store. He was eating sushi from a place just down the stairs, enjoying a very late supper, while his daughter Dana was taking care of the counter. We said hello, and told Renaat that we recognized him from Dragon's Den, and were there to sample a waffle.
We tried to let him eat his supper in peace, but truthfully we couldn't have stopped him talking if we tried! He is a passionate storyteller, and obviously wasn't tired of telling his story yet, so we sat down and talked with him while waiting for Dana to cook up the waffle. He went into a lot of detail about his move from Belgium to Canada, his woodwork in Sooke, BC, and eventually about his waffle cart in Victoria. It's a story that is far from finished, and yet there's already a lot for him to tell.
When the waffle was served up, we split it because we had a huge supper ourselves already. Both of us in turn started to gush over how good the waffle was. It really was superb. Renaat then launched into the details of the waffle dough, and how we really should go to Belgium some time so we could try some with alcohol in it (was it rum? I forget). He said the waffles were properly named "Liege Waffles", but had to be marketed as "Belgium Waffles" to us in Canada.
Dana was kind enough to snap our picture between her kitchen duties:
As we were talking, I noticed that not only was Renaat sporting one of his bright yellow "Wannawafel" shirts, but he also had the T-shirts for sale, hanging in the corner of the store. I asked if I could buy one, and although he wasn't sure if I was serious at first, eventually a shirt was offered up and I gladly parted with $20.
We signed the Wannawafel guest book, and bid farewell to Renaat and Dana for the night. We ended up coming back three more times during our stay, the waffles just could not be passed up.
Thanks Renaat, and good luck to you.
There is a funny epilogue to this story: a while later, on Saturday, November 27, I was in Edmonton for the Grey Cup. We were out at a local bar and I happened to be wearing my bright yellow Wannawafel shirt. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and someone saying, "excuse me, but are you from Victoria?"
"No, I'm from Saskatchewan," I replied, "why's that?"
"Oh, the back of your shirt says Victoria, BC. I'm from Victoria."
"Aha! Well take a look at the front - have you ever been to Wannawafel?"
"Then when you get back to Victoria, you have to go! It's a great little place in Market Square, just under a set of stairs. Awesome waffles, just to die for!"
There you go, Renaat. Hopefully that was another customer coming your way. :)
Posted by Hammer at December 18, 2010 12:21 AM
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