A “Howling” Success Story On Two Maiden Lane Entrepreneurs
Few people possess the ability to look at a sow’s ear and imagine its transformation into a silk purse. It takes a very special level of creativity and risk aversion. This thought came to mind after chatting for an hour with John Ansell and Steven Thompson, owners of four Maiden Lane businesses — The Squirrel Cage, A Dog’s Breakfast, Buuntz & Co. Ice Cream, and Bungalow Home Décor (scheduled for a summer 2016 opening).
First, a little bit about Ansell and Thompson.
Along with being business owners/partners for the past four years, they have been domestic partners for seven years. Thompson was born in Sault Ste. Marie where he lived for 19 years. After stops in Barrie, where he studied Hotel and Restaurant Management, and a four-year stint in New York City working in the food service industry, he returned to Toronto where he worked in securities as a stockbroker for 13 years.
Until he and Thompson moved to Windsor four years ago, Ansell had been a lifelong resident of the GTA. He obtained his degree in political science. After graduation he worked with equity funds before embarking on a successful real estate career. He and Thompson moved together to Windsor in 2012.
There is a bit of an oddity in the fact that Ansell and Thompson chose to leave Toronto to work and live in Windsor. Historically, it is young Windsorites who bolt for Toronto in pursuit of their dreams.
Thompson had some limited experience with Windsor, since his mother had moved here 20 years ago. Ansell, on the other hand, had no personal experience or knowledge of Windsor other than the unflattering description his father had for the city.
When Thompson first proposed the idea to Ansell to leave their homes and careers in the GTA and move to Windsor to open their own café styled sandwich shop, not only did Ansell question Thompson’s sanity, but so did their circle of friends.
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Photo by Joe McParland