Shaughnessy Otsuji (L) and Chaylene Lidell (with baby Poppy) in front of their just-opened Pink Avo cafe. Winners of the Downtown Langley Business Association new business contest, the two had to overcome several setbacks that delayed opening by more than a year. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Shaughnessy Otsuji (L) and Chaylene Lidell (with baby Poppy) in front of their just-opened Pink Avo cafe. Winners of the Downtown Langley Business Association new business contest, the two had to overcome several setbacks that delayed opening by more than a year. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: At long last, the Pink Avo cafe is open in Langley City

Winner of Start It Up contest had challenges that delayed launch by more than a year

When Chaylene Lidell and Shaughnessy Otsuji won Downtown Langley Business Association’s Start It Up Langley contest with their idea for a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, it appeared to be a well-timed stroke of good luck.

The idea for the café came about when clients at Lidell and Otsuji’s paramedical tattoo business, Studio Sashiko, kept asking where they could go for a bite to eat.

When the fish shop just down the street from the studio moved, the space looked ideal.

“I feel like we would have done this regardless of the contest,” Otsuji recalled.

Then, when the pair learned the space was going to be the prize in a unique contest, they entered and won.

It was September of 2018 when they got the news.

As winners of the the Start it Up Langley contest, they were eligible for more than $130,000 in prizes to help them launch their business, Pink Avo café.

That included six months’ free rent, marketing support, legal and accounting fees, business coaching, a grand opening reception, and more.

READ MORE: Public invited to weigh in on new business for Langley City

As it turned out, it would take more than a year before the cafe could open, thanks to a series of unpleasant surprises and setbacks that would test Lidell and Otsuji’s persistence.

“We thought that we had a perfect white box,” Otsuji observed.

If they had been planning a retail outlet, it would have been a fairly simple process of filling that white box with shelves and display counters.

But a restaurant, which requires stringent standards to be met, is a more complicated kind of business.

It turned to be a bumpy ride.

One day, their project manager phoned and told them the aging premises were “riddled” with asbestos.

“It had to go down to the studs,” Liddell recounted.

“That prolonged the process.”

READ ALSO: Asbestos fix slows down progress on contest-winning Langley café

That was the bad news.

If there was a silver lining, it may have been the discovery the plaster ceiling was hiding large wooden support beams that would become a design feature in the redesigned space.

Lidell and Otsuji also endured a crash course in health regulations, like discovering they would need a grease trap, something they didn’t think would apply to them as a vegetarian restaurant.

“We don’t have grease,” Lidell said, but rules are rules, and their plumbing had to be redone, again.

As did the wiring.

As did the outside sign, which was in bad shape and needed to be rebuilt.

The six month free rent “kind of came and went during the renovation process,” Otsuji said.

During all of this Lidell became a mom.

“We didn’t know which was going to arrive first, her [the baby] or the cafe,” Liddell laughed.

In fact, baby Poppy was first, on Nov. 2nd, several months ahead of the cafe.

Once the dust had settled, the result, the work of noted Langley interior designer Josie Smith, is a bright, high-ceilinged space.

“We basically re-did everything,” Lidell observed.

After that, the novice restaurateurs hired and train cooks, baristas and cashiers, about 10 staff.

Plans are to operate, at least initially, from morning to afternoon

“I think we’ll start as breakfast/lunch hour,” Otsuji told the Langley Advance Times.

Otsuji and Lidell, who have noticed some critical comments on social media about the delayed opening, say detractors should know that winning the contest was a help, but it didn’t cover everything.

In fact, the two estimate they spent close to $500,000 of their own money getting the restaurant ready.

“We want people to know it wasn’t given to us,” Lidell said.

Despite the sometimes-frustrating process, they remain enthusiastic about Pink Avo.

“We are still so excited,” Otsuji said.

Lidell agreed, adding she is optimistic about their prospects for success.

“We like our chances,” she said.

Teri James, DLBA executive director, was impressed, calling the cafe “absolutely stunning.”

“It was well worth the wait,” James said.

Initial reviews online have been enthusiastic, with Google Reviews comments like “amazing” “gorgeous,” “delicious” and “my new favourite cafe.”

The restaurant is located on the one-way, at 20534 Fraser Hwy, and operates 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Shail Wolf admires the ancient tree the protesters have dubbed the grandmother. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Our View: B.C. needs long term plans, limits for old growth logging

How do we manage the trade off in jobs versus preservation?

Anti-bigotry activist Cran Campbell says even when hateful comments are taken down, they are quickly reposted. His comments coincided with release of a new poll on Sunday, March 31, 2021 that showed seven in 10 Canadians are worried about the degree of racism in the country (Langley Advance Times file)
LETTER: Canada is at a crossroads regarding hate and racism: Langley man writes

Canadians have to decide what kind of society they want, local man says

One of the tiny western toads during the 2019 migration. (Langley Advance Times files)
Environmentalists prep for annual Langley toad migration

South Langley will soon have tens of thousands of toads on the move

Blading for bees, led by Aldergrove resident Zach Choboter, headed through B.C. (Special to The Star)
Aldergrove’s bee blader crosses the prairies

Zach Choboter has rollerbladed from Whistler to Alberta in two weeks

Tourism Langley has put together Father’s Day gift boxes that support local businesses and aid the Langley Food Bank. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
This Father’s Day, you can support Langley businesses and aid the Food Bank

Tourism Langley brings back their popular gift boxes

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Most Read