For Ihsan Askar, a 56-year-old chemist and chef from Pamukkale, Turkey, heading Yumbrosia Fine Foods in Oak Bay has been a dream come true over the past 10 years.
Askar moved to Austria at the age of 25 to study at the University of Innsbruck. After making the decision not to finish his PhD, Askar moved west to Bre Grenz and experienced high quality food and coffee on the border between Austria, Germany and Switzerland while working as a food quality inspector.
“After the age of 40, it wasn’t easy to work with someone else,” he said at one of his outdoor cafÃ© tables. âYour mind moves to make your own decision and to work. That’s why my main goal was to open or take over a store and design it the way I like it. “
Askar lived in Europe for over 20 years before visiting his brother in Toronto. Unable to endure the extreme climates of eastern Canada, he looked to the west coast and ended up choosing Victoria over Kelowna.
He decided that running a service company was the only way he could do without manufacturing or health testing facilities. Askar’s goal was to take over a small business, a difficult process in Europe that required up to five years of schooling.
“When I came to Canada, I saw this difference: just buy a store, open the door the next day and go.”
He bought his first store in Oak Bay Village in 2011 from a sick Portuguese owner and decided to sell all of his seven stores in Victoria. Askar, who originally called his company Ambrosia Fine Foods and Deli, enjoyed working along the avenue for eight years but struggled with the building’s limited space and lack of customer parking available.
He quickly bought his current store on Eastdowne Road in September 2018 from an unsuccessful Italian ice cream store and ran both stores for five months, gradually transferring his clientele. Askar is losing minimal business as a result and estimates that its business has grown 85 percent after the move.
âWe really have responsibility for the neighborhood because the building as a commercial unit is 110 years old,â he said. “We did a major renovation and many changes, and my main goals as chemist and health inspector were hygiene and organization.”
Yumbrosia offers a variety of unique ethnic and imported produce, as well as fresh local produce from Galey Farms, Gobind Farms and Dan’s Farm and Country Market, as well as daily soups, paninis and a variety of food and cooking ingredients.
About 75 percent of the store’s products are Mediterranean and European imports, including cheeses, cold cuts, and olives. Sources range from countries like Spain, Italy and Greece to Turkey to Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Iran and Syria.
Askar said it’s the wide range of products that is unique to Oak Bay that offers choices in a store that customers would otherwise only find in five or six different locations.
Yumbrosia not only supplies Oak Bay or Greater Victoria with regular monthly customers from Duncan, Nanaimo and Campbell River.
“Of course I would love to have more customers, and we can add some more products that they want.”
Over the next few years, Askar will begin selling olives, dried figs and olive oil imported from his own three hectare olive farm in his hometown of Turkey.
He enjoys working in a residential area and credits the growing nutritional needs of families for helping keep his business alive.
“If you want to change your diet and eat healthy and good food, you will visit us and our products,” he said. “Health, hygiene, product and quality are very, very important to us.”
Askar plans to run the store for another 10 years in the hopes of training one of its three current employees to run the business thereafter.
“I am happy for everyone who takes over the business after me and can provide the same or an even better service.”
For more information, visit yumbrosia.de.
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