The Pulse: Sept. 20, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 15°C: Cloudy with a 30% chance of showers early in the morning. Clearing near noon. High 15. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Royal Purple: Photographer Keith Moore has been taking shots of Edmonton lit royal purple to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II. (details)

Ali Habib holds his hand over his heart while Sharmin Habib smiles

Umay sets sights on future after Dragons' Den offer

By Karen Unland

Umay's first date with a Dragon went well. Now Sharmin and Ali Habib are working on determining whether this is going to be a long-term relationship.

The siblings behind Rest, a tool to soothe eyes and encourage relaxation, were offered a deal on the season premiere of Dragons' Den, CBC's long-running reality TV show in which investors hear pitches from companies. The Habibs asked for $380,000 in exchange for 5% of their company.

Dragon Michele Romanow tipped her hand early in the show, declaring: "I can't believe you're solving this problem. I would literally buy 100 of these for myself right now." As it turns out, she had suffered from eye strain to the point of blurred vision after the pandemic had her staring at screens for hours upon hours.

When Romanow described her eye troubles, "I had tingles," Ali said. "I had no idea (about) the stuff that she had gone through personally."

For Sharmin, the greatest victory was getting the sense that their story had been heard. "There was a moment of resonance," she said of their appearance, which was recorded in the spring. "There was an understanding of the problem, there was an understanding of who we were, what we were trying to present. It felt that we were taken seriously and authentically."

Most of the Dragons passed, but they said positive things about the company, which had $650,000 in sales in its first six months for a device that retails for $499. Manjit Minhas's offer of $380,000 for 8% was followed by Romanow's offer of the same amount of money for less of the company. The Habibs said yes.

That said, the on-air deal is just the beginning. "They met you for the first time on a TV show, right?" said Sharmin, noting that the next steps are more than just the due diligence one would expect from a prospective investor. "They want to get to know what's your vision, what's your dynamic with each other, tell us more about the business, so that they can catch up. That's fair. You're kind of creating a new relationship."

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Headlines: Sept. 20, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • The city says public complaints about encampments are up 25%, with 6,693 made so far in 2022. Encampment response teams have removed 1,370 camps so far this year, compared to 1,780 in all of 2021. According to Homeward Trust, more than 2,750 people in Edmonton have no permanent home and almost 1,300 are sleeping outside or in shelters. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told CBC that problems are "spilling" from the downtown core to areas like Kingsway, 107 Avenue, and Whyte Avenue; he said he hoped the Healthy Streets Operations Centre in Chinatown would help, though he acknowledged it's a "Band-Aid solution." Officials say they are working on a plan to create more winter spaces because emergency shelters at the former Northlands site, Commonwealth Stadium, and the Edmonton Convention Centre are unlikely to be used again this year.
  • The Edmonton Police Service said it would not lay charges against a woman who was shoved to the ground by an officer as seen in a widely circulated video. Police alleged she was brandishing a knife, but have not released evidence that she was doing so. An EPS spokesperson said no charges were laid because "intoxication was considered a factor" and there was no willing complainant.
  • Hundreds of Albertans gathered for a memorial for Queen Elizabeth II at the legislature while the royal funeral proceedings were wrapping up in England. Attendees took in an hour-long ceremony featuring bagpipes, a 96-gun salute, hymns from the Greenwood Singers, and a moment of silence. Premier Jason Kenney, who recently waited 10 hours to see the Queen's coffin in London, remarked that it was "astonishing to see the world stop in quiet, peace, and gratitude."
  • A new playground at Boyle Street Plaza will be celebrated with a grand opening event on Sept. 24. Joelle Reiniger, a community representative, said the playground was designed through a lens of Truth and Reconciliation and sought input from local Indigenous residents and an elder. The project was led by a partnership of Boyle Street residents and the YMCA.
  • Members of the DBG Fruit Growers Group exchanged locally grown plums, grapes, pears, figs, peaches, and apples at a fruit festival at L.Y. Cairns School. "A lot of people believe you cannot grow really good, excellent tasting apples and pears and cherries and plums (in Alberta)," green thumb Bernie Nikolai told CBC. "They're wrong."
  • Twenty people attended the third edition of Camp Inspire, a program by Edmonton Fire Rescue Services intended to increase representation by promoting firefighting to women and gender-diverse people in a "safe, approachable" way. Only 11 of about 1,250 local firefighters are women, camp coordinator and firefighter Daisy vanRavenswaay told CTV.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have signed a tryout agreement with Jake Virtanen, a former Vancouver Canucks winger whose contract was bought out after he was accused of sexual assault in May 2021. In July 2022, Virtanen was found not guilty by a B.C. Supreme Court jury. Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE), noted Virtanen had faced "very, very serious" allegations and said the Oilers are "sending a horrible message to our community" in the wake of Hockey Canada's mishandling of sexual assault allegations.
  • With only a few games left this season, FC Edmonton is facing an uncertain future. Sports columnist Derek Van Diest doesn't think the Canadian Premier League, which runs the owner-less club on a shoestring budget, will continue to do so next season. FC Edmonton is currently last in the league with three wins, seven ties, and 15 losses. The CPL has said talks are ongoing to find a new owner
  • Experts are expecting flu rates to return to normal or slightly heightened levels this fall, along with a rise in COVID-19 rate, putting pressure on hospitals already experiencing staffing shortages. Alberta's free flu immunization campaign starts in October.
Lindsay Porter wearing the Top Chef Canada chef's coat

Lindsay Porter first to represent Edmonton on Top Chef Canada

By Sharon Yeo

Local chef Lindsay Porter will be Edmonton's first-ever representative on Top Chef Canada, which launches its 10th season on Food Network Canada on Sept. 26.

She'll compete against 10 other chefs from across Canada for the show's largest ever cash prize of $100,000.

On previous seasons of Top Chef Canada, other major cities have been well-represented, including 11 contestants from Calgary since the show's inception in 2011. Chef Alexei Boldireff, formerly with Baijiu, competed for a spot in Season 7, but failed to join the main cast.

Porter has participated in several other Food Network programs in previous years, including Beat Bobby Flay, Guy's Grocery Games, and Fire Masters. But as to why it took 10 seasons for Top Chef Canada to embrace its first contestant from Edmonton, Porter can only speculate.

"Maybe it was Edmonton's reputation for not having many independent restaurants years and years ago," said Porter. "In the past, Edmonton had kind of a muted culinary scene and wasn't really known for adventurous foods. I think now our culinary scene has exploded, and it's the perfect time for Edmonton to shine."

Porter is the executive chef at The Common, and she is very happy that she will have the platform to showcase the restaurant on the show. Porter joined The Common after the pandemic forced her to close her restaurant, London Local, in 2020.

"It's one of the best companies I've worked for," said Porter. "The people here are great. They've been very understanding in that they let me leave to do the competition. I'm super happy to promote them."

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Two people stand with their arms spread wide in front of an industrial building with a sign reading "Decadent Frozen Desserts Since 1982, Retail and Distribution Centre, WOW! Factor Desserts

WOW! Factor Desserts opens new HQ and retail outlet

By Brett McKay

The Sherwood Park-based company WOW! Factor Desserts is marking its 40th anniversary with the grand opening of a new retail outlet and distribution centre in Edmonton.

"I'm really excited about it because it's been 40 years in the making," said WOW! Factor Desserts president Debbie Gust. "We're a mature company, and we try to do our best at being as innovative as we can in terms of desserts, and so this is a monumental milestone for us."

The Edmonton distribution centre receives products from the company's Sherwood Park bakery and prepares them to be shipped across Canada and the U.S. The building will also serve as WOW! Factor's new head office, and it is one of three retail outlets where the public can walk in and buy their products directly.

"We're really trying to expand our retail footprint," Gust told Taproot. Aside from the public storefront, Gust said the company has plans for evening tastings and other programming. "We have a lot of really fun things that we've never ever done before. And it's just to kind of engage the community and let them know who we are."

You might not know the company by name, but chances are you know some of its cakes. Since its humble beginnings as a home-based business in 1982, the company once known as the European Cheesecake Factory makes desserts that have become a mainstay in chain restaurants, and they are carried by all major distributors in Canada.

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