Video: Vancouver business stretches yoga into French fine dining

Cozy 28-seat cantina features stone bar

Stephan Gagnon enjoys yoga and loves food. His latest joint venture, Che Baba, combines the two.

Now Vancouverites can limber up with Hatha yoga and keep the good feelings flowing with southern French and Mediterranean-inspired fine dining next door.

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Yoga people are people, and people eat and drink anyway, Gagnon said.

Che Babas yoga studio opened where Kingsway and Fraser connect in November, its cantina, which is linked by a corridor, at the end of December. Its meant to be a place for locals to socialize and indulge in a healthy way.

Yoga at Che Baba aims to bridge the corporate and the grungy, hippie divide, says Gagnon, who notes Che Babas studio fills the gap between yoga destinations on Main Street and Commercial Drive.

Che Babas studio hums with an early 1970s vibe complete with heated parquet floors, textured walls and cedar accents. The cozy 28-seat cantina features a stone bar built around an open kitchen.

Gagnon said the two businesses will support each other so therell be no pressure for the intimate yoga studio to expand or increase its fees. It offers classes for all levels with prices ranging from $10 to $15 per session.

Its the third restaurant venture for the 44-year-old contractor who has been in Vancouver for 16 years and originally hails from Montreal. With designer and architect Scott Cohen, who recharged the Waldorf Hotel, Gagnon has been involved in a dozen Vancouver restaurants including the now defunct Fuel in Kitsilano, Nook in the West End and Nuba on West Hastings at Cambie.

Being around restaurateurs and kitchens gave Gagnon the restaurant bug, so he started the French bistro Jules in Gastown in 2006.

That was a dream of opening a restaurant so I partnered up with [chef] Emmanuel Joinville It was an instant success and basically I started liking it so I think I have the touch for it, Gagnon said.

He sold his share to Joinville after a year and subsequently opened Les Faux Bourgeois. Les Faux and Che Baba run side by side.

I know the neighbourhood, I know the way its going and it was pretty much our demography. Our typical client that we want to cater to are middle-class, young family, Gagnon said. It was exciting to have a site like this because its not every day you can find a cantina by a park.

Yoga enthusiasts and foodies will be able to drift into Che Baba from the park starting in May.

Gagnon and co-owner Allison Weldon, whose background is in fashion, marketing and graphic design, originally wanted to open a joint yoga studio and restaurant in Europe. They secured work permits and studied the markets in Paris and southwest France. But in the end, they decided it was most prudent to first establish Che Baba in Vancouver. Which is pretty much the mecca for yoga right now, Gagnon said.

While Baba references an Eastern European grandmother or an Indian father, representing wisdom, Gagnon says the Argentinean Che is meant to democratize the equation.

The cool guru or the dude guru, Gagnon said.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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