Archive for November, 2013

Sinfully The Best

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Steveston’s Favourite Little Chocolate Shop

In 2011 a sign sprung up at the corner of Chatham Street and No. 1 Road announcing the imminent opening of Sinfully the Best. Always interested to know what is going on in our community, Steveston Insider thought this new business had plenty of potential judging by its name. An artisan chocolate shop, yes please!

Sinfully the Best’s owner Cathy Cheung grew up in Mississauga, which she says had in those days a small town feel much like Steveston.  She trained as a pastry chef at Ryerson University although she did not end up working in the industry. Her other interest was business, which led to her career as an accountant, yet chocolate continued to remain her passion.

Her dream of opening a chocolate shop germinated many years ago. Cheung patiently waited for a suitable location to create outstanding bonbons. In August 2010 she found the corner shop and knew it was time to execute her plan. While Cheung is modest about the success of the business she did confess that the shop was recently awarded Best Chocoholic Experience in Richmond (Richmond News Reader’s Choice Award).

Anita Schultz, who admits to having a weakness for chocolate, remembers feeling excited when she saw the sign in the window announcing the new business. She came from an extensive career in retail and was eager to introduce herself to Cheung. Schultz was promptly hired as manager and has been serving customers since the store opened in May 2011. She is passionate about the product and is thrilled to have the opportunity to sell it.

The little chocolate shop went through an expansion approximately a year after opening. Remarkably, all of the production was conducted up front until that time. The kitchen is now located at the far end of the shop and offers the four full-time chocolatiers more room to create their edible works of art. Cheung oversees the chocolate production and develops new recipes. Most of the staff has cross-trained to assist in the kitchen or in retail, wherever help is required.

Part of Sinfully the Best’s company philosophy is to share their passion. To uphold this mandate the shop offers classes for small groups of five to seven participants. Local executive pastry chef, Charles Massion, was eager to team up with the chocolate shop to share his expertise. He instructs the interactive sessions on select Sundays throughout the year, and depending on the class you register for you, will learn how to make chocolate or a decadent dessert. A fringe benefit, participants take home their creations.

Cheung says over the years she has been fortunate to work with a number of great employers and mentors. In turn, she relies heavily on her staff and their expertise; in fact all of her employees receive an opportunity to attend a three-day course at Montreal’s Academy of Chocolate. While there, they tour the facility where one million pounds of chocolate is produced daily.

The first thing customers remark upon when they walk through the door is the friendly service, along with an extra special touch, they greet you with a warm welcome along with a treat to sample. All of the products are made on site, which Cheung believes makes a big difference. In addition, Cheung points out no preservatives, additives or artificial flavours are used.

They are able to produce small custom batches (think special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries) allowing customers to personalize their selection of flavours, fillings and shapes. Sinfully the Best also has the ability to produce logos and monograms. They are happy to create unique orders. Chueng recalls making two chocolate champagne glasses in celebration of a 50th wedding anniversary. She says the happy couple drank champagne from the chocolate flutes and then ate them.

Women flock to Sinfully the Best on Girls’ Night Out (a Steveston Merchants Association event). It is such a popular night that customers request being notified as soon as the next date is announced. Almost all holidays have a connection to chocolate, however Christmas and Easter are particularly busy times at the shop. One of their most popular items is the passion fruit ganache heart. Many customers come in specifically to purchase this chocolate with its tart and tropical taste. Another top pick is the lemon in a dark ganache with an underlying flavour of lavender.

Chocolate houses are one of their top selling items year round. The chocolatiers will happily add your address or family name to your ‘home.’ They have customized houses for weddings, beach houses, and real estate agents enjoy ordering them for clients as house warming gifts. At $17.95 this is the cheapest (and best tasting) real estate you will ever purchase.

Another wonderful gift idea is the chocolate box, which can be filled with Sinfully the Best treats such as their delicious soft caramels (these are not filling puller outers!) or bonbons. More than one gentleman has been inspired to place a piece of jewellery inside a chocolate box, an almost sure fire winner if you are brainstorming a romantic wedding proposal. The chocolate box is a mere $6, what you put inside is up to you.

New this holiday season, mini solid chocolates (both dark and milk are available) in the shape of champagne bottles are packaged in sets of six and would make a great stocking stuffer. As well, the chocolatiers have created full size champagne bottles made from hollow chocolate, wrapped in foil and packaged in an attractive birch case.

Anytime of the year is a cause to eat chocolate, however the holiday season seems to absolutely cry out for a visit to Sinfully the Best where you will find tempting gifts for every chocolate lover on your list.

Sinfully The Best
13-3993 Chatham Street
Richmond BC V7E 2Z6
Telephone 604-272-2655

4Cats Steveston Art Studio

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Lyssa Kayra, the owner/curator of 4Cats Steveston Art Studio, says people regularly stroll into the studio asking if they can buy artwork on display in the windows. It puts a smile on her face each time this happens, and it must be very satisfying to know that the imaginative creations by 4Cats young clientele are deemed gallery calibre.

Kayra’s fascinating life would be excellent fodder for a memoir. She grew up in Kyuquot, a remote fishing village on the west coast of Vancouver Island accessible only by air or boat. There were neither roads nor cars, and children went to school aboard a school boat. Her Finnish grandfather came to Kyuquot to work in the fishing industry. Kayra tells the tale of her grandmother, a nurse, who delivered a seal pup by C-section. This pup, named Miss Charlie, became the family’s pet and lived for over forty years, the longest life span ever recorded for a seal. She attempts to go back to visit this special place once a year.

After completing her visual arts education at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, and University of New South Wales in Australia, with majors in photography, media arts and fashion, Kayra returned to B.C. and became an assistant to 4Cats Art Studio founders Joey and Darryl Simon.

4Cats Arts Studio was conceived in 2005 when the Simons first offered classes from the basement of their home in Victoria. Joey Simon chose the company name to pay homage to 4Cats Cafe in Barcelona, Spain, which is where Picasso went with artist, poet and philosopher friends to discuss art and life and make and show great art.

A mere eight years since its inception, 4Cats now has head offices in Vancouver and Toronto. With 58 franchises across Canada (Alberta, B.C. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec), 4Cats has now gone global with locations operating in Australia, Mexico and the United States.

Kayra took on the task of helping franchisees get their businesses up and running. Her job was to locate, decorate, staff, train, evaluate and market studios across B.C. and in Guadalajara, Mexico, until it dawned on her that she should establish her own franchise. Her former business partner, and good friend, Shelley Weir, introduced her to Steveston. They saw the fishing village at its best on a sunny spring afternoon, and realized the potential of opening a 4Cats in this location.

The Steveston art studio has been in operation since 2010. Building on its success, last year the business partners opened a larger second Richmond location at Garden City Mall.

Subsequently, Weir left 4Cats to earn her teaching degree and works as a teacher on call in Vancouver. Kayra is now the sole proprietor of the Steveston location, and Janice Cheung joined her as partner at the Garden City 4Cats. Staff members Merrick Irwin, who is an art therapist, and Jen Branagan, are both assets to the Steveston business.

When asked what she finds most satisfying about her job, Kayra says she is inspired by children’s creativity, and their uninhibited approach to art. In addition to creating art, some age-appropriate art history is offered to complement the class. Captivating and inspiring stories are shared in a fun and humorous manner about the life and work of the artist. For example, did you know that Andy Warhol was crazy about cats and throughout the 1950s and 1960s he had 25 cats, and he named all but one Sam?

Inspiration for art classes is often drawn from the works of famous artists with a medium that corresponds, for instance, a Picasso class may utilize acrylic on canvas to produce cubist paintings and ceramics, while a Frida Kahlo class may use paper-mache and paint acrylic on canvas to create self-portraits.

Kayra’s favourite medium is painting as she feels it allows for the most expression. She enjoys showing kids how to mix colours and says, “It is like magic for them.” She greatly admires artist Frida Kahlo’s honest and raw artwork and even dressed up as her for Halloween last year.

This upcoming winter session 4Cats shines the spotlight on Georgia O’Keeffe (who had an affinity for painting gigantic, beautiful flowers) and Lawren Harris (one of the founders of the Group of Seven). During the weekly classes children study both artists and work in a variety of mediums.

The busy studio also hosts workshops including the upcoming Shop ‘Til You Drop sessions (December 21 through 23) which give parents a chance to shop while their child creates a masterpiece. In addition, there are workshops and camps throughout the year (winter and summer camps, family workshops and Pro-Day workshops too).

4Cats is a great location to host a party; paint splatter parties are always a big hit, with many other themes to choose from. 4Cats gift certificates are a good gift choice for budding Van Gogh’s of all ages (yes, some adult classes are offered too).
When the newly engaged business owner is not working she spends time painting in her home studio. She says her home is much like a rotating gallery and she is drawn to creating large expressionist paintings based on colour theory and process.

With any business what it really comes down to is customer satisfaction, and the following story is an endearing snapshot of 4Cats devoted fan base. Kayra tells the story of a 3-year-old student who visited Victoria with her family. Upon sighting a totem pole she proudly reported that Emily Carr was known for her totem pole paintings. It seems that the art history component of 4Cats curriculum had registered loud and clear.

The urge to release the artist within is unleashed the moment you set foot inside 4Cats Arts Studio. The walls are filled with colourful and joyful artwork, and with tempting art supplies all around, you will feel inspired to sign up for a workshop, pronto!

4Cats Steveston
110-12031 First Avenue
Richmond BC V7E 3M1
Telephone 778-297-4244