Les amis du FROMAGE serves up small business growth
The award-winning Vancouver cheese shop partners with Ceridian Powerpay to focus on growing the business.
The story began in 1985 when a mother-daughter team with a passion for fine food founded les amis du FROMAGE, the award-winning Vancouver cheese shop. Alice Spurrell and her daughter Allison Spurrell have grown the business from a shoe-box sized store to a 12,000 square-foot retail location with a commercial kitchen in East Van, as well as a second retail location in Kitsilano.
“We actually started not as a cheese shop, but as a catering business. My parents are very involved in the wine world, so we did a lot of functions for wine groups that they belong to or other people they knew through those groups. I think that’s why we started to have a really good selection of cheese, and it just grew from there. We did catering until the mid '90s, and decided to make the transition,” says Allison Spurrell, owner and operator.
Since focusing their efforts on cheese, Allison has been responsible for curating over 500 different types of cheeses from across Canada and around the world. Les amis du FROMAGE has been voted “Best Cheese Shop” by readers of the Georgia Straight, The Westender, and The Courier, and has been awarded Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Award for Top Food Supplier to Vancouver’s best restaurants and hotels.
The next generation
After over 30 years in the business, Alice decided to retire in 2014 and fully hand off the operations to Allison and her partner, Joe Chaput. Allison and Joe make a great pair when it comes to running the business – Joe has 34 years of culinary experience at some of the best restaurants and hotels in Vancouver, and Allison has been deeply involved in the world of cheese for the past 30 years.
Allison and Joe now have 20 employees onboard, and the business is growing each year. “Our business at the Kitsilano location has increased by about 10% a year for the last 15 years, and we were up 18% at the East Van location in this last calendar year,” says Allison.
This growth has meant that Allison and Joe have needed to focus on store operations and ensure that their employees have the tools they need to best serve customers.
“Every year we need another employee because of the increased business. It takes at least two-and-a-half to three months before an employee can fully help customers. It's quite an investment in time for the employee, so the longer they stay, the happier we are. We have people who have worked for us as long as 13 years,” says Allison.
A long-standing partnership
“When we first opened, it was really just my mom and me,” says Allison. “Once we started to hire employees, the paperwork involved to process payroll in addition to the day-to-day of our business was too much. I'm not very good at payroll to be honest, and knew my talents were definitely better used elsewhere.”
Allison has partnered with Ceridian Powerpay to process payroll for her employees since 1993.
Powerpay has allowed Allison to simplify her payroll process to the point where it has become a simple part of her routine. She calls in every two weeks, and her payroll is complete in just a few minutes.
The Powerpay team also helps Allison ensure she has the information she needs to demonstrate her compliance and is responsive when she has questions. “My questions have been answered really quickly and I've always had help through the process of implementing new codes and things that we need in our payroll,” says Allison. “I feel like whenever I'm calling Ceridian, they're very helpful and super friendly. The team is knowledgeable and able to help me with whatever questions I have, which takes a really big weight off my shoulders.”
The small business community
When Allison talks to other small business owners in Vancouver, she sees them facing the same challenges. “When I hear other small business owners saying that they're doing their own payroll, and I say, ‘Have you ever thought about doing what I’m doing?’ Right now, in Vancouver, finding employees is very difficult because of the cost of living. And to me, finding and training good people is a far more productive use of my time than submitting forms to the government.”
Allison recognizes that by partnering with Ceridian and making Powerpay her expert in payroll, she has been able to make better use of both her time and expertise in growing the business.
“I think when you are looking for a partner, you want somebody who's going to work with you and be able to accommodate what your business needs,” says Allison. “An entrepreneur is somebody who has a dream of their own business and a vision of what they're going to build – filling out forms for CRA is not part of that vision. Entrepreneurs want to spend their time doing something creative, growing their business, and finding new customers. Ceridian and Powerpay give me back the time to do just that.”