Charles moved to Canada from Haiti at the age of 12. At a certain point in his life, this young entrepreneur decided to leave a successful career in the automotive industry. The 33 year-old now runs the Épicerie Alimentari Sud, a grocery store that sells Made in Italy products.
Panoram Italia: When was your first encounter with the Italian culture?
Wesner Charles: I was director of sales at a car dealership in St-Leonard, where the majority of the customers were Italian, and I also worked at another dealership, which was owned by an Italian. I have a wonderful understanding and friendship with Italians. As a result, I discovered a love for Italian cuisine, which I then started to share with others.
PI: Why did you decide to open an Italian grocery store? Were you ever worried that not having Italian origins and not speaking Italian could be an obstacle or a limitation in the success of your store?
WC: So many people love the Italian culture. I find that Italian food represents a choice of quality, with some of the most refined and exquisite products. I have a great affinity with Italian culture and my Italian friends have always encouraged me, including in this new commercial venture.
PI: You are obviously a lover of Italian food, but are there any other elements of the Italian culture that you are passionate about?
WC: I am delighted by the passion of every sales representative and supplier who has proposed new products to me from time to time. I have never seen anybody else sell food with so much fervour. I have also found that there is always an interesting story behind the origins of Italian food products.
PI: Name one Italian (Made in Italy) product in your store that you highly recommend
WC: Burrata – an absolutely delicious cheese!
PI: Are you planning on travelling to Italy? What regions or cities would you like to visit and why?
WC: I would like to visit all of Italy, from north to south, discovering as much as possible about this marvelous country. I often look at photos from when my father was in Italy and I find them beautiful. I would perhaps like to go in March, during the San Giuseppe Festival, so I can eat lots of zeppole. I would most likely end my trip with a visit to the Vatican.
PI: Which element of your Haitian background do you think is most similar to the Italian culture?
WC: I think it’s the importance of the family. The happiness of the community and their attachment to family are common elements in both cultures; they fill my heart with joy. I also want to point out that I’m very proud of my Haitian origins and my culture and I’m extremely grateful to the Haitian community, which has always supported me.
PI: Complete this statement: You know your neighbours are Italian-Canadian when …
WC: You are invited to dinner and find yourself at the table with the whole family. It’s an experience of great human warmth that makes you feel at home.