City Bites

City Bites Insider: Entrepreneur puts finishing touches on Elgin food and shopping hub

It’s a coffee shop! It’s a juice bar! It’s a restaurant! It’s a lounge! It’s a clothing store! It’s all of these things. The corner of Elgin and Gladstone has just become the hippest new hub in the city. Here, businessman and entrepreneur Nader Salib has spent the past 10 months turning a giant former salon and spa into an all-day (and all-night) meeting place — he calls it The Common (380 Elgin St.) and refers to it as an “anti-mall.” Right now, The Common includes the third location of Morning Owl coffee shop and The Common Concept Shop (a brand-savvy clothing store). In January, plans are in place to launch a pop-up spot for the burgeoning Urban Juice Press and an expansive restaurant and lounge that will be open in the afternoon and evening. “I love the vibe on Elgin Street,” says Salib. “It’s very artistic and it’s not bound by any particular age.”

The Common's Concept Shop, featuring brand savvy clothing. Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith
The Common’s Concept Shop, featuring brand savvy clothing. Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith

Why this corner on Elgin?
I was looking for something downtown, but not in the Market. I really wanted to cater to local people — people who have grown up in Ottawa and live in the outskirts of downtown. This is a very artistic corner. People around here connect through their shared interests — art, food, drink.

What was here before?
There was a salon and spa — it was a big space with a lot of rooms. We took over the building in March and have been working on it ever since. We spent the first month breaking down all the walls and creating one big space — a blank canvas to work from.

How did you come up with the idea for this multi-use space?
I saw the concept in L.A., where there’s a place called The Lab Antimall. When you’re younger, you hang out at the mall. But as you get older, you’re more attracted to independent clothing stores, independent coffee shops, and independent restaurants — businesses that offer higher quality than the chains. I wanted to recreate an anti-mall in Ottawa.

How does it work?
When I saw this space [5,000 square feet], I knew it was too big for anyone to make a go of it with just one business. So I thought it would be great to throw a number of strong, independent businesses into this one space and have them play off each other.

Morning Owl coffee, just one Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith
Morning Owl coffee, just one of a few popup shops in The Common. Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith

What types of businesses?
We want to encourage businesses with a strong retail and artistic aspect — painters, florists, hairdressers, chefs… We want to bring all these people into one place and build a strong culture. We want people to come, hang out, spend the day. We want them to be inspired. It’s a creative hub and a dining hub.

And the whole place is called The Common?
Exactly. Basically, The Common is the name for the grouping of all the independent businesses within. It’s the “common denominator” and the “common space.” There are popup shops and permanent business within The Common. The permanent restaurant and lounge is called The Common Eatery and the permanent clothing shop is The Common Concept Shop.

I think I get it. What are a few of the different elements?
There’s a Morning Owl. It’s a permanent popup and is already operating Monday to Friday. There will be other popups that may be long- or short-term. Urban Juice Press will be a popup and will sell their juices here during the day. Blumenstudio is another popup that will display their plants and add life to the space. It’s a big space — a bit grungy and raw — so we want to add some warmth and life.

Tell us more about the restaurant!
I’m not ready to announce too much quite yet. The plan is to have the restaurant and lounge open by late January. One of my partners is Warren Frederick from Lago, who will be focusing on the bar and coming up with great cocktails.

So keep watching and stay tuned?

Hair studio inside The Common. Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith
The luxe Le Petit Salon hair studio is affiliated with The Common. Photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith