So you want to be Italian - Wesner Charles

E quindi vuoi diventare italiano? - Wesner Charles

2017/08/09 - Written by Teresa Romano
Photo Anisha Patel
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Considering Italy’s enormous influence on history and culture, it’s no wonder so many people of various backgrounds are ardent admirers of all things Italian. In this issue, Panoram Italia spoke with one such admirer: Wesner Charles.

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. 

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