Michel Durocher: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Michel Durocher, Managing Partner at Vancouver’s progressive tavern The Abbey. We talked to him to find out what it takes to succeed in a notoriously tough restaurant market and where he sees himself in five years…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
The Abbey is a progressive tavern. It is a warm room that crosses the lines between a gastropub and a fine dining restaurant.

Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
It was the right time and place. I had been looking to open a restaurant for quite a few years now and this was the first opportunity where the financials, location, concept and partnerships all came together. My family has a long history of operating small businesses, so it’s in my bloodline. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is easy: it is dealing with the people you see on a daily basis. Having people around you, both guests and staff, with smiles on their faces is very fulfilling. The most challenging part… just flip the coin. Even after all these years, I take things very personally. On the rare occasions when we let a guest down, or a staff member is unhappy, I carry it with me. It can keep me up at night looking for solutions on how to avoid those situations in the future.

Where do you see your business going in five years?
Nowhere. I think we’ve created a restaurant that will stand the test of time and will still be going strong 10 years from now. Vancouver is a notoriously tough market for restaurants.  My business partners, Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach, have opened six successful restaurants over 11 years. Together we strive to continue to grow the business and are committed to working hard daily to achieve that.   

What does success look like to you?
Success smiles. Success in this business is a room full of happy people. And it’s contagious.  However, even my smile falters when my life is out of balance. As much joy as I take from my work, nothing works if I don’t take time for myself and my personal interests. So, I guess success to me is a busy, happy restaurant with the time to dig my toes in the sand and snow every once in a while.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
My first failed attempt at opening a restaurant. A few years ago, I tried to purchase a restaurant in the Okanagan. I had to go through the process by myself for the first time and I learned a lot of things about the ownership side of the business. It didn’t work out and it cost me a lot of time and money, but it helped prepare me for opening The Abbey this year. 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Opening a business is a fine line between chasing a dream and analysis. Be careful not to let your dreams shade your judgment and don’t let the analytics paralyze you.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I have been supporting children’s hospitals wherever I have been living for the last 15 years. The healing and supporting work they do with children and their families is so important. I lost a cousin when I was very young. It is devastating to see a young child succumb to an illness, and to see what happens to a family after such a tragedy. It is something that has never left me after over 30 years.

What is Notable to you?
The unexpected lesson I learned that day. Keep your eyes and mind open; you would be amazed at the wisdom on the streets.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Other… Windows phone. Don’t ask why, but I love it.

How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
Attitude. Every day is a new day with new opportunities and challenges. If that doesn’t make you want to get up in the morning and get started, I don’t know what will.


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