Hotel Zed

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    This Vancouver Island city is drawing a younger crowd keen on the quality of life, great outdoors & see more

    Source: Toronto Star
    Author: Jennifer Allford

    This Vancouver Island city is drawing a younger crowd keen on the quality of life, great outdoors and emerging cool.

    VICTORIA, B.C. - A guy has a skateboard beneath his feet and a piercing under his nose. Another rides by with a guitar strapped to his back. There’s a grey-haired peloton or two, a little tyke with a Spider-Man helmet takes a spill, and a smiling Japanese Rasta walks by.

    It’s quite some time before you see even one little old lady as you ride a bike on the Galloping Goose — a 60-kilometre trail from Victoria to Sooke.

    It’s rush hour for rowers and as you stop on the Trestle Bridge to watch them on the water below, a couple of young women — one with blue hair another with wacky tights — walk past and you have to wonder what happened to the city full of “newlywed, nearly dead and garden beds.”

    Somewhere along the way, Victoria got cool.

    Students from across Canada have always flocked to the University of Victoria to escape the snow, but people in their 20s and 30s are moving here now, drawn by a booming tech sector.

    And the flock of retirees is getting younger — 50s are the 30s.

    Sure, you can still pick up a stack of Irish linens or get your age spots removed, but you can also pop into Smoking Lily for a periodic table silkscreened on a dress and find plenty of grooming shops for the ubiquitous gnome beards.

    Grandmas line up for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress, but at the hotel’s Bengal Lounge, someone’s grandkids are enjoying smart cocktails. (At least until April 30, when it closes. There’s no word on what will replace it.)

    The signature drink features tea-infused vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white and is served, naturally, with a mini scone.

    “I love this room,” says Bruce Livingstone as we settle into one of the Bengal’s low leather couches, taking in the rich wood panelling and colonial ceiling fans.

    Livingstone, the guy who founded iStock and sold it to Getty for $50 million (U.S.), moved from L.A. to Victoria a few years ago and started a new stock photography company, Stocksy.

    “People say how can you live there, it’s so boring,” he says. “But I tell them if you’re bored then it’s your fault.”

    Livingstone and thousands of others are coming to the city for the quality of life and the great outdoors, which can involve throwing on wetsuits to go for a swim, or going surfing or fishing.

    Victoria is good for business, too. “It’s great,” says the entrepreneur. “There’s a great network of tech people and we’re all connected.”

    On Friday night, beautiful people fill every table at Little Jumbo, enjoying dinner with fresh local ingredients — the chanterelle mushrooms that came in yesterday are served with a little parmesan, garlic and wine on grilled bread.

    Tables of tattooed young ’uns sit next to middle-aged couples and every demo seems to be drinking a fancy cocktail.

    The drink list changes every six weeks. If you’re bamboozled by which booze to try, you can always go with the blurb that most tickles your fancy, such as gin-based Tea and Toast: “My good man it took Dutch courage, a stiff upper lip and a nice cup of tea to build an empire. Hang on to your monocle and have at it.”

    Poking fun is all part of the fun in the Royal City.

    At Hotel Zed (named for the Queen’s pronunciation of the last letter of the alphabet) locals line up weekend mornings for breakfast tacos or the mile-high fried egg sandwich at the Ruby.

    The restaurant’s co-owner Chris Jones — “one of the tall bearded dudes with cool aprons” — says the Ruby will open a second location. “Where the locals go, the tourists want to go,” he says of picking spots that aren’t exactly on the red double-decker bus routes.

    The tourists may also miss Discovery St., where Victoria’s graffiti artists have transformed a couple of blah buildings into a gorgeous tapestry of street art. Visitors looking for treasures along the famed Antique Row may come home with something a little more contemporary if they stumble into Polychrome Fine Art.

    “The sun never goes down on cool, my friend,” the Hotel Zed desk clerk shouts to her colleague as he puts on his aviators and walks toward the 1967 VW bus out front.

    The hotel has hipsters in the hot tub, a lobby that looks like The Brady Bunch on acid, and shuttle rides in a couple of VW buses. “They get a lot of attention” my driver tells me during the quick trip downtown.

    Victoria is not “nearly dead” anymore.

    “It’s getting cooler here all the time,” Livingstone says, but that doesn’t mean the city’s forgotten its manners: “Strangers on the street get mad at you if you don’t say good morning.”

    Jennifer Allford was a guest of Destination BC and its partners, which didn’t review or approve this story.

    When You Go

    Get there: Air Canada flies to Victoria direct from Toronto. If you’re in Vancouver, take the 90-minute ferry over to the island as a passenger or with your vehicle. It’s a remarkably beautiful ride. Or save the time and fly in and enjoy the view from the air.

    Season: Victoria can give you your fix of green pretty much any time of the year: flowers are growing around town all year long. If you really want go deep into green, you could visit the Butchart Gardens. If you happen to be in Victoria during one of the rare snowfalls, you can sit back and watch the show as everyone freaks out and drivers attempt to navigate the roads.

    Stay: Hotel Zed (

    Find out more: Tourism Victoria (

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Two Victoria businesswomen have been named to a list of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Two Victoria businesswomen have been named to a list of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada.

    Sarah Blackmore, a founder of Bin 4 Burger Lounge and Lot 1 Pasta Bar, and Mandy Farmer, chief executive of Accent Inns and Hotel Zed, were named to the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 this year.

    Blackmore placed 17th on the list in her first year applying, while Farmer, who has made the list six straight years, placed 25th.

    “I was blown away,” said Blackmore, who helped start Bin 4 in 2011 and is about to launch Lot 1 Pasta Bar at the Island Home Centre in July. “I am so honoured to even be on that list, but to be that ranking? Wow, I really just wanted to be in the 100.”

    Farmer, who has been ranked as high as 12th and as low as 50th in the past six years, said the honour “is very cool, but honestly I can’t wait to hit No. 1, I’ve got a lot of work to do in the meantime.”

    Farmer noted the recognition is really more about the company than herself.

    The top-100 rankings are now in their 18th year and place female entrepreneurs by a composite score that takes into account the size, growth rate and profitability of the companies they own and manage.

    Blackmore, who is expecting her first child in August, said she was inspired to get involved by Farmer, who she has worked closely with to establish Bin 4’s third location beside Accent Inns’ Blanshard Street hotel.

    “I think it’s really cool that they honour females in business across Canada and even the application process and going through the questionnaire was pretty empowering,” Blackmore said. “I love being on that list to show my staff what I have worked toward.”

    Farmer is quick to give credit for her position and success to her family. Accent Inns has been family owned since it started in 1986 by her father, Terry. She said there is still far to go before the number of women in power starts to make a dent in the boy’s club.

    “I belong to a group of CEOs out of Vancouver and the room is filled mainly with men,” Farmer said. “Perhaps one of the hardest things for women is the family/career struggle. Thankfully, nowadays men are playing an equal role in the upbringing of their children and I think this will dramatically alter the number of women entrepreneurs.

    “If it weren’t for my husband, Geoff, there is no way I could be doing what I’m doing.”

    Farmer said being on lists like this do set women up as role models, a position she relishes.

    “I’m very comfortable with that. I love speaking engagements where I get to razzle up people’s inner entrepreneur, hopefully sparking them to take the next step,” she said.

    Another Victoria entrepreneur appears to be close to taking that next step, according to PROFIT/Chatelaine. The competition singled out five women who didn’t quite crack to the top-100, but who should be watched over the next few years, including Nicole Smith, founder of Flytographer.

    Flytographer, an online marketplace connecting travellers to photographers in 160 cities around the world in order to capture important memories, has grown more than 200 per cent over the past two years.