An interview with Alex Bruce + Celine Lepage of The Lark.
Describe your business.
The Lark is a restaurant, wine bar, and neighbourhood haunt. We are a stopping place in the downtown core. The space is airy, warm, and inviting and we have endeavoured to go well beyond status quo.
The food is made by our rising star chef Emily Prinzen. The menu is fresh (nothing we serve is pre-made or shipped in frozen and no deep fryers!) and we aim to use local products whenever possible (we live in Canada).
The bar program was created with the same philosophy. We use fresh products (lemons and limes are juiced daily), we do not use flavoured sugary syrups, and the wine is all biodynamic, organic, or natural. We also strive to be zero waste.
What brought you to the region?
We moved to the area to start a family. We first landed in beautiful Wellington, Prince Edward County, before relocating to Belleville. We were drawn, like many, by the burgeoning wine industry and we wanted to be part of it.
What makes the Bay of Quinte a good fit for your business?
We were drawn in by the potential. Because the Bay of Quinte is still growing and developing we saw that there were a fair amount of services missing. There is no other place like The Lark and our hope is that as the area develops the demand for new services, like our little spot, will grow as well.
What was the hardest thing about starting a business?
Trailblazing. We choose the picturesque downtown core of Belleville. We could see that there was nothing like The Lark. We assumed, by virtue of being new, that the easy part would be getting them in, and the hard part would be proving ourselves through great service and quality product.
What we hadn’t anticipated was how difficult it would be to convince the locals to give us a shot. It is a lot harder to disrupt old routines than we had previously thought it would be. This continues to be our greatest challenge.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area?
You have to have thick skin, and an unyielding ability to persevere through the challenges of entrepreneurship, especially if you plan to bring something new to the area.
What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community?
Everybody knows everybody. We lived in Toronto, and even in a big city like that, you would expect to meet someone that was friends or at least familiar with someone else you knew. In Belleville, it is next level. There seems to be one degree of separation between everybody, which makes conversations very interesting.
Describe your perfect day off.
The beach! One of the many benefits of living in the Bay of Quinte is access to Sandbanks beaches. A warm day, a sandy beach, and our kids are magically in a good mood and listen to us. That is our perfect day!
What’s your secret to surviving winter?
If you were to have one word tattooed on you, what would it be?
Wine. Just kidding. I already have words tattooed on me, and I will never tell because I was 18 when I did it and it is super embarrassing.