Former marketing analyst spurs local business after plant closures
Former marketing analyst spurs local business after plant closures

Having witnessed the devastating impact of numerous manufacturing plant closures in the once-lively community of St. Thomas, Ontario over the past few years, local resident Shannon Helmer is looking forward to attracting more visitors to the area by providing a new, healthier food option through Pit.....

Having witnessed the devastating impact of numerous manufacturing plant closures in the once-lively community of St. Thomas, Ontario over the past few years, local resident Shannon Helmer is looking forward to attracting more visitors to the area by providing a new, healthier food option through Pita Pit. A strong advocate for the revitalization of the community, Helmer has gone so far as to meet with existing restaurant owners in the town to instill the message that the opening of her Pita Pit should be viewed as a valuable addition to the community rather than as more competition.

[caption id="attachment_16707" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Shannon Helmer"][/caption]

Helmer grew up in London, ON, and studied broadcast journalism and various business courses at Fanshawe College. She relocated to St. Thomas in 1998, and has worked in almost every department of ASCO Numatics over her 22 years with the fluid automation products company. Her most recent position was as a marketing analyst. However, after almost four years of daily 3-hour commutes to work, Helmer was ready for a change.

How did you learn about Pita Pit?

Our London office of Numatics Ltd relocated to Brantford, ON four years ago after the company merged with ASCO Valve. One day I was invited to eat at the Pita Pit in Brantford with a few colleagues for lunch. As soon as I walked in I was very impressed by how different it was from every other QSR out there. For example, there was a server who actually greeted me. Then I took a bite of a pita and that ultimately sold me. It was different to the usual sandwiches I was accustomed to.

Why did you choose an opportunity with the brand?

The 3-hour commutes to work were taking a toll on me, so I had been keeping my eye out for new opportunities closer to home. Although my husband owns a business, Helmer’s Mini Excavators, and offered to support me, I knew I would get bored if I didn’t do something myself. I wanted something that I felt passionate about, and a concept that would survive in the community. The city was a large manufacturing hub for many years, but fell victim to numerous plant closures within the community. The recession had a huge impact on the city and surrounding area. In the last few years, the community has really started to bounce back.

What do you hope to achieve with your Pita Pit opening?

Pita Pit will add diversity to the city. We have a population of 40,000 including the surrounding area but have limited healthy food alternatives. By offering more dining options, we will be able to capture visitors’ interests to stay. To keep people in our town, we need businesses and services that will anchor them here. With Pita Pit I can offer a fantastic product and revolutionize customer service and dining experiences in the community. I want the residents and visitors to this wonderful city to experience that ‘wow’ factor only Pita Pit can bring. We will also offer school lunch programs, which would be a big game changer here to promote healthy eating in schools.

When you come into the store, I’m going to be there with the team greeting you. I know I have to be in the store 24/7 to build Pita Pit into a thriving restaurant. I’m not hiring employees; I’m hiring a family to build this into a wonderful experience and business for us. I want people to come in for pitas and the people who sell them.

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