Sharing a wall seems to have led to sharing a growing friendship, as well as a Sept. 16 formal grand opening for two local entrepreneurs and their new businesses in the 22800 block of Bothell-Everett Highway in Canyon Park.
With a degree in business and having owned four local franchises for a well-known sandwich shop, Feisal Ramjee, 33, was ready to make the jump to something different. Canyon Park’s Extreme Pita is the first Washington outlet for the Canadian chain. The shop opened for business in May.
Next door, Andrew Weiseth, 30, went into business with father-in-law Lane Scott, opening one of only a few WineStyles shops in greater Seattle. According to manager Weiseth, the whole idea is to make wine more understandable and accessible to those who like wine, but are not wine connoisseurs
Like his neighbor, Weiseth actually opened his doors earlier this year — in February, to be exact — but last week’s event was intended as an after-hours event for the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce, as well as a chance for chamber members to get a feel for two of Bothell’s newest businesses.
‘It was the menu’
The menu and the food were what attracted him to Extreme Pita, said Ramjee, who not only owns his store, but also the rights to sell all future Washington Extreme Pita franchises.
Extreme Pita’s Garth Moore noted the company has some 230 stores in Canada, with about 30 in the U.S.
But again, Ramjee, who readily admits to being very ambitious, said it was the food that got his attention.
“The concept seemed so familiar, but better,” he said.
Extreme Pita offers pita-style sandwiches with a variety of meats and sauces, including some more exotic choices such as the falafel pita. Ramjee said he and his staff can make a pita to a customer’s order, but he also talked a lot about the chef-inspired recipes used for the pitas.
Ramjee further talked about the sizzle of the grill as the pitas and their contents are warmed and browned, but he also noted Extreme Pita uses water not oil for sauteing its onions and other vegetables.
“It’s simply healthier,” Ramjee said of Extreme Pita’s offering. He described the meals as fresh and original, but added “the flavor profile is very familiar.”
So far, Ramjee said local palates seem to be taking to Extreme Pita’s approach, as he said business has been good. Again, without a hint of arrogance or egotism, Ramjee readily admitted to being extremely driven. He talked about borrowing, some years ago, a relative’s $700 car and realizing he simply wanted something better for himself, and later, for his wife and daughter.
“I’m a simple person, but I do like the finer things in life… I’m willing to work twice as hard,” he said. “I decided being poor was not for me.”
Stating he has done very well in the local real-estate market, Ramjee feels his relationship with Extreme Pita allows him to marry his experience in the food business with his knowledge of local real estate, helping potential franchise owners find appropriate, affordable locations.
“He’s just very enthusiastic,” Moore said. “If he can’t talk you into a franchise, you probably don’t want a franchise.”
‘We’re not wine geeks’
“It really all boils down to simplifying wine,” Weiseth said. “(Wine) doesn’t need to be intimidating … It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.”
Inside WineStyles, instead of finding bottles stocked according to region or variety, bottles line the shelves according to simple taste labels, such as “crisp,” “rich” or “silky.”
And if you don’t know what a “silky” wine might taste like, Weiseth or one of his staff will be glad to explain it to you or perhaps offer you a sample.
“We make it easy to find wines you like and wines you might have otherwise overlooked,” Weiseth added.
WineStyles also offers a basic menu of appetizers and desserts. Not incidentally, most WineStyles’ beverage offerings are priced between $10 and $25 a bottle. For a fee that doesn’t seem to cover the cost per bottle, you can even join WineStyles’ wine club. Which brought Weiseth to another point of discussion regarding the store’s unique approach to wine sales.
“We talk about what we love, wine, about taste, first and foremost,” he said. But he added neither he nor his employees want to chat exclusively about vintages and vineyards.
“We want to talk about the community, we want to be involved in the community,” Weiseth said.
Charitable organizations especially are invited to host events at WineStyles, using the facilities free-of-charge, paying only for food and drink. A Marysville WineStyles location helped raise some $25,000 for charity last year.
In the same vein, birthday parties, office holiday celebrations and so on all are welcome at WineStyles. For his part, Weiseth’s partner/father-in-law Scott, he clearly preferred to let his son-in-law do the talking. Weiseth said he and Scott have travelled together and even lived under the same roof for a time. They eventually decided they wouldn’t mind going into business together and flew to Florida to learn more about WineStyles and its business opportunities.
“It really resonates with who we are,” Weiseth said.