The Bleeding Carrot Taking Risks and Winning Hearts

_1020137Nothing about Owen Sound’s The Bleeding Carrot can be taken at face value. From the menu to the mandate it upholds with every customer, there is a history with this business that, like many, started when its owner had to leave his previous job.

Jim Ansell, owner and manager of The Bleeding Carrot was forced to make a career change due to health-related issues. The process started when he contacted the local Y Employment Centre where he was introduced to the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit program that assists new business start-ups with an income subsidy. This provided Jim with the valuable time to develop a business/marketing plan.

The idea? A juice bar. Not new to Owen Sound but the last attempt was 15 years ago and a lot has changed in consumer trends since then – a daring move for someone without prior restaurant experience.

He felt the idea could be successful as long as he knew the wants of his potential customers, had a good product and found the right location. The Self-employment Benefit Plan gave Jim the opportunity to learn how to operate and market his business. What he has created is an establishment Owen Sound vegetarians have long awaited and local non-vegetarians see as a new experience.

A daring move for someone without prior restaurant experience. Location, Location, Location
Located at 945 – 2nd Avenue East, The Bleeding Carrot opened on October 9th, 2012. It provides customers with a range of vegetarian and primarily local juices and foods. Local products, bought from the farmer’s market, include eggs, honey, maple syrup, all types of vegetables and coffee. The building’s 2000 square feet gives the bar and restaurant a spacey, open environment to anyone, whether they be strict vegetarians, beginners, or just wanting a good meal.

However, the idea for The Bleeding Carrot seemed “More of an urban concept,” says Jim, “But [Owen Sound] deserves to have a juice bar.” When it came time to buy a space the only one available was extremely large for just a juice bar. So, Jim’s wife, a seller of home decor, opened a business within the space called Show Offs Home Stuff, as well as Jim taking his new vegetarian diet and turning it into a restaurant concept.

_1020128

Owner Jim Ansell helping customers with a midday snack.

The whole area is open space, including the kitchen, allowing customers to see their food being made. Employees are responsible for doing various tasks, from taking care of the cash to preparing menu items, including all juices. All are customer service oriented and gaining extensive experience in the food industry.

Customer Service
Mistakes happen in any business, how you fix it can determine if you have a repeat customer or a walking bad advertisement. When a customer was left waiting over twenty minutes for their order, Jim offered them a free juice sample while she waited and a ten-dollar gift certificate.

The lesson: give the customer a reason to come back for what is hopefully a better experience. There is a high value of making sure each customer has a good experience “Otherwise, we haven’t done our job,” Jim affirms.

_1020133The Right Kind of Advertising
Even with good service and food, winning customers is always the biggest challenge. Jim initially used newspaper and radio but it was too expensive for him so he reverted to using word of mouth which is The Bleeding Carrot’s main promotional tool – let the product and service speak for itself.

Jim consistently posts notices on Facebook advertising the day’s specials and feature items. Street level signs announce “what’s on” to local passers-by. Inside, the bright colours and wall-sized cartoon graphics make it memorable and reinforce the humour in his logo – a cartoon carrot with a bite mark.

Facing What’s to Come
Challenges are always in the future but for The Bleeding Carrot there are two in particular. One is getting people to pay a little extra for a good quality product. Jim understands it’s hard to ask people to pay more. Yes, his coffee costs two dollars, but he guarantees you will never want any other quality coffee.

The second challenge, is a menu without meat. Vegetarians already know, you can have a good meal without it but you have to convince the “carnivores” that it’s possible.

For Jim, who had no prior experience in the restaurant business, The Bleeding Carrot has become an establishment Owen Sound vegetarians are grateful for and others are willing to try. But, most importantly, it’s a safe place for anyone to come in and enjoy a good quality product. For all its history, the value of making sure each customer has a good experience is everything to The Bleeding Carrot. “Otherwise, we haven’t done our job,” Jim affirms.

Advice for the Potential Business Owner
“I will never recommend someone to open a restaurant, unless they do a lot of market research, know everything about their customers and prepare to be frustrated” is Jim’s advice. “There will be days when the place is a ghost town and others when it’s packed.”  “To try and fail is the only way to see what doesn’t work.”

Submitted by Kaitlyn Patey

6 Responses

I had the pleasure of being out in Owen Sound (live in Kincardine) with my friend and found the establishment. I was super excited to have stumbled upon such a great atmosphere & totally cool restaurant. Love and have been onto raw, green live foods since 2010… and so the menu was perfectly up my alley! My friend was then introduced to Quinoa for the very first time! ( I have loved Quinoa since my early 20’s) so we had a great experience! ANOTHER cool thing, not only was the FOOD AMAZING!! BUT the funky little shop in the back was intriguing, I couldn’t leave empty handed! We will most definitely be back and make the time to get back to Owen Sound. LOVE this VISION! Best of success to Jim and his staff always!! From one entrepreneur to another, networking makes our world go ’round! I support & fully love the 100 mile diet… meaning getting local food within the 100 miles… SUPPORT LOCAL!! always! Paula

Congrats to one of our graduates from the Ontario Self Employment Benefit program. We co-ordinate this Entrepreneurial support program in Grey and Bruce Counties. Financial support, mentoring, training and development are part of the sessions . We have worked with over 850 in the past 7 years.. EI eligible or Ei reach back clients call 519-371-3232 and get started today !!

We’re truly fortunate Jim Ansell made the bold move to open a vegetarian restaurant in Owen Sound. I’ve been vegetarian since 1985 and have gone back and forth between being vegan and lacto-vegetarian. Currently I’m vegan and it’s a struggle sometimes going into non-vegetarian restaurants to get a filling, healthy meal that’s vegan or even just vegetarian. With the Bleeding Carrot I never have a problem with getting a filling, healthy meal that meets my vegan requirements. Also, as the article above states: “The second challenge is a menu without meat. Vegetarians already know, you can have a good meal without it but you have to convince the “carnivores” that it’s possible.” Jim definitely has found the right high quality food offerings to satisfy the non-vegetarians who can use the opportunity to explore a new and tasty alternative to the usual meat centered meal. Thanks to Jim and his wife for all their efforts!

It is very gratifying to see your efforts paying off. You have been a real connector in the community , recently hosting the Chamber after five event which introduced several dozen folks who may not have been in your restaurant. The way you bend food and gift ware is excellent and I am so pleased the Self Employment Program was able to get you started on your dream . Cliff Bilyea

08.02.13

I had the great pleasure to stumble in, literally, and discover an incredible place.

I am somewhat active in many different groups and city committees over the 3 years I have lived in this beautiful City. I had an idea and approached the owner to discuss. He was very accepting and let me try to organize a drop in for Coffee and chat once a week for the LGBTQ community.

I am a very openly gay middle aged woman wanting to meet others in the community to make friends as I really didn’t know many people. The bleeding Carrot staff and management made me feel so welcomed even helping me get the information posted in the BIA Info boxes.

Unfortunately it was a dismal failure mainly because of the time I chose to hold this. I tried, gave it a good go but realized that it just didn’t take after about 6 weeks of showing up for 2 hrs. Oh well, maybe another time someone might try again.

I loved the conversations I had with staff, all the beautiful things they had for sale and just the peaceful warmness of the place. I drop in often when downtown to check out what’s happening and read their bulletin board.

It is a great place and I hope it lasts a long, long time in the downtown. I will be leaving Owen Sound to move back to Ottawa but will remember this GEM forever. Thank you for what you have created here.

Jim and Patti have created an amazing environment where everyone feels welcomed and valued. The venue they have created for musical events from the Friday coffee house to the evening concerts is phenomenal. Their shared passions have added so much to the positive culture of Owen Sound

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