After being told to take a step back from her business due to health concerns, Mandolyn Jonasson said she decided to approach some of her coworkers to become part owners.
Island SodaWorks in Qualicum Beach became a co-operative April 1, after founder Jonasson said she worked herself to a point where her doctor told her she needed to take a step back.
“I thought I had to close the restaurant and I was so sad… I was so terrified that this beautiful thing that was such an amazing thing for all of us, I would have to say goodbye to.”
So, Jonasson approached Cathrine Kitchen and Donna Mills Bowman, who both began at the restaurant in January, to discuss turning Island SodaWorks into a co-op.
“We decided that we didn’t want to let this go. This was a great opportunity for everyone,” Jonasson said.
The women recently signed on to renew Island SodaWorks lease with the Town of Qualicum Beach to continue to use the west bay of the former fire hall.
Kitchen, who attended culinary school, said as soon as she started working with Jonasson, she believed in her vision for the restaurant.
“I said to her right away that I wanted to be a partner with her. I put it right on the table in the first week.”
For Mills Bowman, she said she was on the verge of retiring, but has a passion for cooking. She added that because of health issues, she’s not able to work long days.
“The co-op has given me an opportunity to buy into a business where I can be my own boss,” said Mills Bowman, who has been in the food industry for 45 years.
Kitchen agreed, saying that being a co-owner allows her to still have time with family or bring her son into work if she needs to.
Jonasson said anyone who comes to work at Island SodaWorks has an opportunity to buy into the co-op.
“You would work here for a trial period and then after a short trial period, we could offer you the position of becoming a partner. For a small investment, you buy in. You own all of this; the couches that we’re sitting on, the freezers full of meat,” she said. “The better the business does, the better we all do. We’re all putting in our best because it’s ours.”
Each co-owner, Jonasson said, has one voting share. But she said people can’t be a member of the co-op if they don’t work at the restaurant.
“You cannot residually profit from it,” she said. “You get paid a wage and then profit share on top of that once you’re a member.”
Island SodaWorks is located in the west bay of the Town of Qualicum Beach’s previous fire hall, and recently the town put a call out for proposals for the space. Island SodaWorks was eligible to apply, but so were any other interested parties.
Jonasson said they signed a lease with the town last week. She said she felt the reason their proposal was chosen was because the business tied in with the town’s Official Community Plan.
“A lot of the things that came out from that Quality of Life survey was the needing to support families, the need for diversification in our population,” said Jonasson, who was on the OCP review steering committee. “I can’t take care of housing (problems), but what I can take care of are the people who work here who will be able to make enough money that they can afford the housing here.”