When I first met Maureen and Donalda, I knew that they would have an impact on me. Their passion for change was contagious, and I was delighted when they asked me to help develop the Project Limelight / East of Main story. I knew the word “Social Enterprise” from working with clients like Shannen O’Brien (Create Change feeds Karma Exchange), and Sarah McLachlan (whose music career supports the Sarah McLachlan School of Music). Yet this was something new. Maureen and Donalda wanted to open a restaurant in Vancouver that not only brought people together, the way food and drink does, they also wanted this restaurant to literally feed the community.
The truly remarkable thing about East of Main is that it is the definition of social enterprise, meaning that all profits feed back into a non-profit cause. For them, that cause is Project Limelight, a free theatre program for kids in the DTES. The main office for Project Limelight is just above the restaurant, as is Maureen’s casting agency. The kids at Project Limelight are not only taught by some of the city’s top actors, directors and producers (Cory Monteith is a big supporter), they also enjoy food security from East of Main when they come in. How perfect is that? The restaurant feeds the program financially, and literally feeds the kids yummy, healthy snacks.
East of Main opened this past Friday and I was fortunate enough to attend a friends & family pre-launch earlier in the week. Tucked away on Georgia Street, just east of Main (hence the name), the restaurant is now part of a flourishing community of stores, bars and bistros. This gem of a neighbourhood may not be known to everyone yet, but hold tight – the crowds are coming. Chinatown has seen some amazing restaurants in the past few years – Bao Bei, The Keefer, Campagnolo, The Union – and now East of Main. Inspired by the Mediterranean, the cuisine is both tasty and inventive. It is a place for friends to gather, snacks to be shared, and a reminder that we can choose to support businesses that give back to our community.
Imagine what the world would look like if every store we shopped at, every restaurant we ate at, every yoga studio we downward dog’ed at was a social enterprise. We can give back in so many different ways – East of Main makes it simple: Enjoy great food AND support kids in the neighbourhood.
Narrative Communications developed the story behind Project Limelight, including designing a logo and visuals, producing content and building a website. We also designed the East of Main logo, which hangs proudly in its new home. It was an experience that reminded me why I choose to work with values-based businesses and why I continue to support social enterprise.