Aficionados of Ottawa’s Sausage Kitchen needn’t worry.
Although the hands that own the well-known Byward Market business have changed, those that have long prepared their favourite sausages and other specialty meats have not.
Arriving early each day, master sausage maker Jacek Majaj continues to fulfil “his promise”. But it’s no longer late when he leaves—the day-to-day responsibilities now fall to new owners and business partners John and Sharon Saikaley and Linda Charette Campbell, who took over in mid-July 2012.
The changeover was brokered by Sunbelt Ottawa owner Greg Kells.
“We had many offers,” Greg recalls, “but Jacek and his family were patient and careful in making their determination on who they thought would be the best buyers for their business.”
The decision to purchase the business came quickly for the Saikaleys. “We knew as soon as we saw it,” says Sharon. That viewing and productive first meeting with Jacek’s family was in October 2011.
Although negotiating the lease with the city of Ottawa took longer than expected, we succeeded in structuring the deal so we wouldn’t lose any of the quality the Sausage Kitchen is famous for, says Greg. “My wife and I are just back from a trip to Europe and I can tell you that even in Germany and Austria, nobody makes better sausage than the Sausage Kitchen.”
“We were fortunate to have Greg in the middle for both parties,” says John. “It definitely made it easier to get deal done. Both parties knew where the other was coming from.”
John had originally contacted Greg about purchasing a restaurant. His family, who owns the Canal Ritz and GuadalaHARRY’S Bar and Grill, has been in that business some 40 years. But besides a speciality operation in a prime location and its potential for growth, the Sausage Kitchen offered a talented artisan willing to stay on and assets that were key in securing a Canada Small Business Loan (CSBL).
It was the best possible transition for the business, adds John. “Jacek is a master and he loves what he does. He wanted to slow down, not retire. His employees who make and serve the food are still there… customers still get it from the best.”
John, who has a full-time job outside the business, oversees the food production, connecting with Jacek every day, and helping out where needed.
Sharon does the product ordering, and Linda, the Saikaley’s partner (and next-door-neighbour), oversees the accounting and administration and deals with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), making sure the plant meets and exceeds all provincial and federal health requirements. Linda’s husband, Orlando, and her daughter, Mia Charette, also work in the business.
A foodie’s delight
The Sausage Kitchen is a favoured destination in a favoured shopping district with potential for growth. A foodie’s delight, its shelves are stocked with many European delicacies, chocolates, biscuits, jams and other fine products. One of the newest is Swedish anchovies. Sharon explains. “We want to provide what people ask us for. A while ago one of the local papers ran a recipe that called for Swedish anchovies and people couldn’t get them anywhere. So I found a supplier and brought some in. They’re all still sitting there!”
A foodie herself, Sharon loves the atmosphere and the people in the area. Being on her feet all day takes some getting used though. It’s a change from the dental world she used to be a part of.
On our early afternoon visit, the wonderfully pungent aroma of sauerkraut permeates the deli. The sausages smoked on site are clearly a big attraction.
Standing at the front-window lunch bar, a professional-looking man in a business suit chows down beside young travellers with well-worn jeans and backpacks. Most are drawn by the food and service online reviews reveal.
We are one of the very few meat shops with approval from OMAFRA to cure and smoke meat, the Saikaleys point out. “We provide these products to other butcher shops as well as restaurants.”
Three months in, the new owners are still absorbing the ins and outs of the operations. Their first undertaking was to replace the windows in the meat counters. The website will be their next upgrade.
Other plans? They might expand their offerings to include platters, Sharon mentions. Recipes that use products they carry are a possibility. Maybe one with Swedish anchovies?
Tips for buyers
We asked the new owners to share with other potential buyers what they have learned about buying a business. Here are a few of their tips:
- Don’t expect the sale to happen quickly. Securing the lease pushed out their expected purchase date nearly five months.
- Keep enough money aside for extra expenses. Tackling the windows early on was a big undertaking and expense, they found.
- Banks like assets. A profitable business with assets that can qualify for a CSBL is easier to finance.
- A business broker can be a big help in negotiations and in organizing the financing.