Name: Ryan Spong
Organization/Business: Tacofino Gastown
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am one of the owners of Tacofino. How we came to Gastown is sort of a funny story. At one time, this space that we are in now at 15 West Cordova, used to be called The Pig & Whistle. It was a popular live music and beer joint run by an eccentric old couple. I used to come here when I was 16 and have fun. Eventually it closed down and sat boarded up for about 20 years. I was always curious about what or who might eventually occupy the space. About 3 years ago, I saw a big sign on the door which read: “For Lease”. I inquired and after a lot of hard work and staying focused on our shared vision, Tacofino Gastown was born.
If you had 15 minutes only, in Gastown, how would you spend it?
I would get my head shaved over at Fortknight Barbers. I love hanging out in the neighbourhood. Any of the patios on Maple Tree Square are perfect, like eating ribs at Peckinpah or a beer at Six Acres.
What do you love about the neighbourhood?
I believe that the most positive time for Gastown is now. For me, it’s the most interesting neighbourhood in Vancouver. The diversity of Gastown’s residents has always been respected and harmonized within the fabric of the environment. We are attracting cool new shops, excellent restaurants, innovators, entrepreneurs and creative people and, along with the diversity of the community, this cultural maelstrom makes the neighbourhood layered and forever interesting.
What’s your most memorable happy moment or experience in Gastown?
Opening this restaurant was a big accomplishment. There was a point in the renovation where the dining room had a cracked sewer pipe beneath it as a result of the earth collapsing. We had to dig a 12-foot hole, running the entire length of the restaurant. The room was full, from floor to ceiling, with dirt and rock. We hand dug out the old pipe, replaced it and rebuilt the floor. There was a point during the renovation that I thought we might not be able to afford the cost of completing the overhaul. The happy part of the story occurred on the opening night of the restaurant. We were exhausted and in debt, but we were ready. The doors opened and in came a whole group of smiling friends, family and Tacofino fans. We had a fantastic night and the satisfaction of staying committed and working through all the challenges was truly rewarding.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
Balance in business achieved through a give and take equilibrium. At Tacofino, we are happy to give back to the community in the form of charity work, volunteering, partnerships and working closely with many of the social organizations that strive to tackle the challenges of the neighbourhood. I believe in working hard and leaving spaces in better shape than how you found them.