Salmon Arm’s Ivan Gracia Rivera, owner of Cantina Vallarta, stands outside his new Sicamous restaurant, La Cantinita Sicamous, which opened on Wednesday, Oct. 14. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm’s Ivan Gracia Rivera, owner of Cantina Vallarta, stands outside his new Sicamous restaurant, La Cantinita Sicamous, which opened on Wednesday, Oct. 14. (Contributed)

What’s the good news, 2020? Salmon Arm restaurateur brings taste of Mexico to Sicamous

The Eagle Valley News looks back at some of the year’s positive stories

As 2020 draws to a close, the Eagle Valley News is looking back at some of the stories that reflect the positive work, activities and accomplishments that occurred throughout this challenging year.

While this summer brought challenges for Shuswap restaurateur Ivan Gracia, it also brought opportunities to expand.

Like other restaurant owners across the province, Gracia was forced to temporarily close his Salmon Arm business, Cantina Vallarta, in March 2020 as the B.C. government attempted to get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As restrictions began to ease, Gracia was able to reopen and transition from take-out only to letting a small number of customers back in the door. He said the response from locals and visitors alike was amazing.

“Right away, they were like, ‘I haven’t’ been anywhere but I want to try your food;’ ‘I didn’t go to Mexico this year… instead of that, I come to your place.’ And I was, ‘Oh, that’s awesome, thank you very much!’ It was more like that than anything else,” said Gracia.

As this was going on, Gracia was spending time in Sicamous where he secured commercial space to open a second Mexican restaurant, La Cantinita Sicamous.

In the midst of this, he was contacted about another opportunity, a proposed partnership of a restaurant in Lake Country.

“She talked to me about the restaurant and I saw the potential of it and I said that will be great if we can get it,” said Gracia. “Then I saw the numbers, and then I saw how much it would cost to get it, and I thought it would be doable. We have to invest a little bit and put a lot of time and effort, but I told her it’s doable, we can make it happen.”

All of this resulted in the opening of La Cantinita Lake Country, located off Highway 97A at 9685 Winfield Plaza, and La Cantinita Sicamous, located at 444 Main St., in the former Happy Corkers location.

“I know it’s a little bit risky but, at the same time, everybody is kind of sick of cooking,” said Gracia about opening new restaurants at any time, let alone amid a pandemic. “Society and the culture here in Canada, it’s go out and eat. It’s part of the culture, it’s part of the thing that us in normal life we do. That’s why I took the risk.

“We have to take risks to make our dreams come true or whatever you are planning for in the future…If we focus on the bad things that can happen, we never get it.”

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Ivan and Jamie Gracia represent for Mexico at last year’s Gathering Together Multicultural Festival in Salmon Arm. The two operate Salmon Arm restaurant Cantina Vallarta. This summer, Ivan opened new Mexican restaurants in Sicamous and Lake Country. (File photo)

Ivan and Jamie Gracia represent for Mexico at last year’s Gathering Together Multicultural Festival in Salmon Arm. The two operate Salmon Arm restaurant Cantina Vallarta. This summer, Ivan opened new Mexican restaurants in Sicamous and Lake Country. (File photo)