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Salmon Arm Economic Development Article

So, you have two very successful restaurants in North Vancouver, life has been good but very busy, so what do you do? If you are Erik Juárez, you move to the Shuswap and launch yet another business, this time a food truck! S’wichcraft Catering was born out of Erik’s passion for great food, local ingredients, community, and the desire to find a better life balance.

With the ominous signs of the impact Covid-19 would have on the restaurant sector, Erik made the bold decision to make changes to his lifestyle. After years of labouring and learning in the hospitality industry, he was ready to leave his restaurants in the capable hands of his management team with the promise to be only a zoom call away.

Erik set out to find a place that he could call home and landed in Salmon Arm. A self-confessed country boy with city roots, Erik had travelled through the Shuswap during his rodeo days and had even scoped out Kamloops for several years but hadn’t found the right opportunity. That was until he started thinking about where he could settle that was affordable, would feed his soul and give him new inspiration to feed others.

Erik tells us he just knew that Salmon Arm was right for him. He can’t say enough about the warm welcome he received on his first few days. The heritage house he bought was the very first one he set eyes on. Everything was falling into place and all he needed was a new venue. As luck would have it for those of us who absolutely love his food truck, finding a suitable bricks and mortar location proved to be challenging and nothing he found was quite right. That was when he saw a gap in the market and decided that bringing a food truck to Salmon Arm would be a great way to ease into the community.

When we asked Erik about his experience starting up a business in Salmon Arm, he couldn’t have been more complimentary to the City for their willingness to work with him on everything from licencing to parking. He acknowledged that his experience in the industry was a contributing factor as he knew the questions to ask and the pitfalls to avoid. He was delighted with the support he received and from his early vision to that first amazing s’wich, the process was seamless. Advice to others working with regulations is to do your homework and develop relationships with the people you need to work with. Past experience taught Erik that big cities have big bureaucracy and big costs but that was not the case in Salmon Arm and the relationships he built in the early days were invaluable.

Erik was also fortunate to exclusively secure the City owned Little Mountain Field House kitchen for food prep and negotiated the opportunity to provide catering onsite helping to offset rental costs. Unfortunately, the temporary transition to a vaccination centre delayed that plan, which he is hopeful will change soon.

By the way, if you haven’t tasted one of S’wichcraft amazing creations this past summer you really missed out. If you have, lucky you because the lines were long and the reviews were five star. Erik prides himself in unique product development all with a focus on local ingredients. An ever swiching menu, he sources as much as he can locally and speaks enthusiastically about it all, especially the fresh produce. If you ordered any variation on the chick’n sandwich, you enjoyed a fantastic vegan option.

That’s the creation of Venessa Stonehouse, friends with Erik since way back and a food professional in her own right as owner of Mindful Füd a plant based alternative food company. Venessa is also the smiling face who takes your order, remembers your name and has been an integral part of getting S’wichcraft up and running.

So now that Erik has experienced his first summer in Salmon Arm, what is next? Taking a winter hiatus before starting up again in the spring, Erik is enjoying Shuswap life and one of his other favourite pastimes, hunting. He’s also spending some time on the coast with his restaurant crew but knows they have things very well in hand.

Erik is extremely enthusiastic about the food and beverage scene in the Shuswap and in particular Salmon Arm. He feels that the demographic shift with an influx of younger people to the Shuswap is creating new opportunities for different food experiences. He cites the Night Café as a great example of a later night option not previously available.

He believes this trend will only continue and that there is still the need for more traditional food services. To quote Erik “there is room for both and room for growth!”

Erik fell in love with the Shuswap outdoor scene from the Salmon Arm Downtown Farmer’s Market to Music on the Bay and is excited to return to both venues with an eye on expanding.

Whether Erik’s’ future includes a second truck or a new restaurant or diner, he 100% guarantees it will be in the Shuswap and maintaining work life balance is his top priority. We think he’s chosen the perfect place to achieve that, and our stomachs and his soul will both be beautifully nourished.

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