Dani Thunder from Fort William First Nation doesn’t shy away from the work In Common is doing for the community.
After buying the restaurant from its previous owners last year, she has kept it an open and safe space for anyone looking for their next meal, or a place to just be.
“We take pride in treating each other respectively.”
That’s why when COVID-19 forced them to shut their doors, they stayed shut for the duration. Now, beginning Aug. 5, their doors are reopening to the community.
A lot of people have questioned why In Common didn’t do take out like most other restaurants in town and Thunder says it was all or nothing.
“Just doing take out limits the accessibility to only people who can afford it.”
In Common leads a Pay It Forward program that assists with the underserved community in eating. Customers have the option of buying pay-it-forward meals that are then used as a staple to feed the less fortunate.
This is a one-of-a-kind offering in the city and makes In Common a place unlike other restaurants in the neighborhood. Instead of announcing themselves and doing collaborations, they’re taking this responsibility and using it as a means to serve the underserved.
“This space means having people being able to come and having that community aspect,” says Ashley Derosier from Eagle Lake First Nation, In Common’s front-of-house manager.
Lak Williams says the trio that runs In Common organically came to be. From Grassy Narrows First Nation, Williams runs the kitchen and creates the dishes In Common’s customers always come back for.
Williams has always worked in the back and her favourite part is every part.
From making the soups to seeing regulars through the open concept kitchen, she is the face behind what brings everyone into In Common in the first place: the food.
“We’re present,” she says. Every staff member is known. From the front of house servers, to the cooks in the back, no one is hidden.
Faces are recognized and familiar to anyone who has made In Common their regular dining location.
They always work with local suppliers and try to find ways to provide the best ingredients. They take pride in their food and providing a good meal to anyone that walks through the door is their biggest goal.
Keeping accessibility alive
Thunder started as a waitress and moved up to manager prior to purchasing the business.
“What initially attracted me to this space was the food… and once you started peeling back the layers of what that all meant, you start to realize what this space was.”
Thunder believes in everything In Common encompasses wholeheartedly. She instills these values of all inclusivity and kindness throughout the space and her staff.
“It’s about what kind of person you are. Anybody can be taught to cook in a kitchen or to serve…but you can’t teach someone to be kind.”
With a flattened curve and a light peeking through the tunnel, Thunder, Derosier and Willams are ready to be back.
“We just love being here,” they all say.
In Common brings humility to the idea of dining out and the community has a safe space to discover what that means.
Thunder emphasizes the reality behind In Common and a safe workspace, “It doesn’t matter how many dollars you make… or how many sandwiches you make in a day. Are your people happy that you employ?”
With art done by local artists donning the walls and the smell of onions from one of Williams soups coming from the kitchen, a person is welcome to explore what holistic dining is in a space meant to do so.
“I’m doing [this] doing because I want to do it,” Derosier beams.
There’s no doubt In Common has been missed and there will be a new comfort in the air come Wednesday when the doors are re-opened for business.