When Siying “Kathleen” Wang took over the Notre Dame Take Out, she gained more than an iconic Summerside food stop and its dedicated patrons.
She acquired training from the people who had run the business for about three decades. As part of the deal, James and Nancy Arsenault stayed on for a month as advisors to make sure Wang knew key aspects of the operation: things like knowing how to order supplies, keep the books and cook the menu items.
“They left all the recipes,” Wang says. “That’s super nice!”
Wang, who is originally from China, took over the takeout and convenience store in 2015. In her home country, she had worked briefly in petroleum engineering – a demanding job that left her with few holidays. After moving to Toronto for three years, she came to P.E.I. in 2012 and started to study nutrition at the University of Prince Edward Island before she and her family decided to build her future as an entrepreneur.
“This business is perfect,” Wang says.
Though Wang still works long hours (14-15 hours a day), she savours the safe and close-knit community she has found in Summerside.
“All the neigbours are super friendly,” she says, noting she and her family live right across the street. She says her parents prefer smaller places, her father in particular enjoying an area close to fishing spots and offering space for a garden.
When Wang looked at buying the takeout, several attributes convinced her she could make a go of the business. She noted the ample parking welcomed customers to make a quick stop for food or grocery items. She also noted the prime location, just up the street from Credit Union Place, a hub for recreation activities and a venue that hosts events ranging from hockey games to major concerts.
Wang appreciates that so many of her customers have been patrons of the takeout for many years. She, in turn, has stuck to the tried and true food items – with favourites like fries with the works, hot hamburger and cheeseburgers.
“We still use the old menu. That’s the thing people like,” she says.
Operating the business has served up some challenges, including learning the local lingo. She laughs describing her initial confusion when some customers ordered a “cheeseburger basket,” meaning a cheeseburger deluxe, not a literal basket.
When asked for her business advice, Wang stresses the importance of research. She notes some newcomer entrepreneurs start a business only because it has done well in another country and fail to consider differences in local tastes, needs or budgets; others think they can import products cheaply and then lose money on shipping costs.
In her case, Wang gained a sense of local food tastes and budgets while she studied at UPEI, and then absorbed specific business knowledge from the mentorship of the Arsenaults.
In fact, the Arsenaults themselves have become loyal customers – dropping in to say hi, get a meal or pick up a grocery item.
“They still come in nearly every day!”