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Ever the 'optimist,' Collingwood entrepreneur opens business in Thornbury mid-pandemic

'Maybe in this time — as crazy as the economy is — maybe it’s a good time to reopen the business,' thought local entrepreneur and owner of Saucy Pasta, Rick Gillman
Rick Gillman showcases his special tri-coloured pasta at his new Saucy Pasta and Gourmet Foods store in Thornbury. Contributed photo

Despite global economic uncertainty, one local entrepreneur has decided to defy the odds and open a business.

Saucy Pasta and Gourmet Foods is back in service, celebrating a social distanced soft opening in Thornbury on Thursday (April 23).

“I think people need comfort food now more than anything,” said Rick Gillman, owner of the homemade pasta and fine foods store.

Gillman founded Saucy Pasta several years ago, operating his business out of a small shop in downtown Collingwood. Using only premium and natural ingredients to make his handmade noodles and freshly milled sauces, Gillman’s goal was to create the best pasta possible.

After an unexpected illness took hold, Gillman was forced to shut down Saucy Pasta in 2015, and subsequently moved on to other things.

However, once the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on businesses worldwide, Gillman found himself out of work once again. The natural-born entrepreneur started brainstorming, wondering what to do next.

In the early days of the supply shortage, Gillman reached out to his old wholesale contracts and discovered his accounts were still active.

“I am not one to just sit by and watch the world go ‘round,” said Gillman. “The wheels started turning and I thought, maybe in this time — as crazy as the economy is — maybe it’s a good time to reopen the business.”

Gillman put out a feeler to a few of his old clients, and he was overwhelmed by the response.

He secured a small location on the main street in Thornbury, dug out his old equipment, and started cooking again. Gillman wanted to be able to offer the community something he couldn’t otherwise find: restaurant-quality dinners that could be made in the comfort of home.

“The first round of food went out and people were posting rave reviews online and on Facebook, which drove me to want to succeed more,” said Gillman. “We haven’t looked back since.”

Gillman enlisted his wife’s help — who had also been recently laid off — and hired his son to be their delivery driver, and Saucy Pasta was back in full swing.

“People say things happen for a reason… Here I am, I never thought I would be doing this again,” he said.

Until Canada’s economic outlook stabilizes, Gillman intends to keep the business as bare-bones as possible. And he said in the end, “the food speaks for itself.”

A rough menu is available online, which details upwards of 17 different pasta shapes as well as six or seven sauces available for takeaway or delivery. Orders placed before noon can typically be ready in time for dinner that evening.

Eventually, Gillman plans to stock the freezer with “Fresh Frozen” pasta so people can pick up his products any time, and hopes to offer hot meals for takeaway as well.

One of Gillman’s specialities is infusing five fresh herbs and garlic right into his pasta. Another is his tri-coloured noodles, which he makes by juicing organic beets and kale to dye the pasta in vibrant, rasta colours, giving them an extra nutritious kick as well.

“It’s a labour of love,” said Gillman. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur, but pasta making is my passion. I do this because I love it.”

And his clients love it, too.

Gillman said the soft opening on Thursday was by no means soft, and they had to stop taking orders before the end of the day. Gillman hit the ground running, but he said once he catches up he plans to offer gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and other options as well.

“The response has been amazing,” said Gillman. “I think the [hospitality] industry as a whole is just trying to survive together. There is a great community, a lot of camaraderie and empathy.”

Gillman isn’t hoping to “conquer the world” with his new business, he is just happy to offer his community another option.

“I think food is health,” he said. “The whole process of enjoying your food, eating, sitting with your family — even though it’s done a little differently now. Eating is one of life’s pleasures.”

Gillman doesn’t know what the future will hold, or even how many days he plans to be open yet. For now he is happy to “make hay while the sun shines,” and keep making pasta as long as the demand is there.

“I am an optimist at the end of the day, I think you have to be to open a business right now,” he said.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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