When life handed a young immigrant family lemons, they decided to serve lemonade. Pavel and Tanya Anokhin were running a cafe in the Smithers Airport when the town of Smithers suddenly cancelled their contact amid the coronovirus outbreak in April.
Flights in and out of YYD were being suspended and the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Alan Harris said with the financial impact to the airport due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Town exercised its right under the contract to terminate.
The restaurant called UFO — Ukrainian Food Owesome, had been operating in the airport since 2017.
“When the airport cafe was closed, we weren’t sure what to do,” said Pavel. “We didn’t have plans to open a restaurant somewhere else. But a lot of people were asking if they could find our products somewhere. We didn’t know how to sell it to them. We knew it would [be a] big responsibility [to open their restaurant in a new location] and not a very good time because of this virus, a lot of places are closing.”
To add to the uncertainty, the couple is also expecting their fourth child any day now and Tanya is the main cook in the duo.
But then opportunity knocked.
The landlords of a building on Main Street that used to house Schimmel’s Cafe (Sascha Hillebrand and Jeremy Roth) called them and suggested they open their restaurant in their place.
The Anokhins were still unsure but took a leap of faith.
They’ve been open for about a month now and Pavel said traffic is slowly increasing.
They had to do some small renovations before they opened to the public and a lot of prep work.
“It was set up as a bakery,” he said. “We didn’t want to do the same thing that was here before. We are Ukrainian and we serve Ukrainian food. We did some renovations and replaced the stove. We had to do it all in two weeks. We had to do it fast.”
He added all of their food is made from scratch and takes time to prepare.
The couple is currently learning how to run a busier restaurant and hire people and figure out payroll. Pavel said it is different than in the airport because people aren’t in as much of a rush. He appreciates seeing people sit down and enjoying the food. He also said there is much less waste.
However, when the airport opens again, Pavel said they may consider opening a cafe in it again while keeping their Main Street location.
“We can’t be everywhere but now we have a cook and helper,” he said. The airport had good conditions. We’d have to make some adjustments. It will be different. But there are no limits.”
He added the town did help them when their contract was cancelled and did provide some compensation. Pavel also noted that former Mayor Taylor Bachrach and Deputy Mayor Gladys Attrill also were very supportive of their business and helpful.
The restaurant is currently open Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunch. Pavel said they may consider opening on the weekends, but for now, spending time with his young family is also a priority.