It was the dead of winter when Zac Bligh and Renée Turner visited the old Lime and Moon storefront, contemplating the realization of their dream of eight years.
Their dream had travelled from the heat of Australia, to a snow-covered Bowen pier, and it was time.
“It wasn’t a plan to necessarily open anything as soon as we did, but it was an opportunity that we saw and wanted to jump on it,” said Renée. The couple had just moved to Bowen with their two young children over the winter, moving away from Vancouver, where they’d lived since returning from Australia (both were raised in Vancouver).
Zac and his father renovated the Branch on Bowen-adjacent building and a few months later, this past July, Tell Your Friends Café opened on the pier.
Bowen’s latest eatery has a heavy focus on made-to-order healthy food, especially vegetarian and vegan options. As Renée is a vegetarian who tries to eat vegan, she noticed that her options on Bowen were more limited.
“We wanted to bring something that wasn’t already being done, [as] there’s already so many great places on Bowen to eat and drink,” says Renée. While there’s meat on the menu, there’s equal care given to the meal being hearty for non meat-eaters.
What else makes Tell Your Friends diferent?
“We’re smaller. So definitely, it’s not as big of a menu,” says Renée. “We want to constantly be changing, keeping what’s in season, what’s fresh, and what’s being asked for from customers and what we’re seeing in trends in the food industry.” She notes that Keto diet-friendly foods are popular at the moment.
“We also felt pretty passionate about having a flexible offering for kids,” says Renée.
Zac says what they serve is also what the family likes to eat at home.
“Little and often is a nice way that we like to eat,” he says. “Like smaller portions and more often in the day, and not just sitting down to your one, two, three big meals a day.”
A key aspect of Tell Your Friends is that the food and the coffee are both important. Though this concept is more common in Vancouver these days, Renée says that when their idea to open a café came about, it was novel.
“Zac was working at an Australian cafe at the time and there was just so much that was happening in Australia that wasn’t really being done in Canada yet in terms of really good quality coffee paired with really quality food,” says Renée. “At home, it was more like get a muffin or something with your coffee.” The couple sources their coffee from Elysian Coffee Roasters in Vancouver.
As this is the first time opening a café for the couple, they say they’ve had a lot of help and mentoring. Among the mentors is Renée’s mother, Becky, who has lived part-time on Bowen for more than a decade.
“She’s done a ton of recipe development in her career and she used to be a caterer. So she’s been helping us with the menu,” says Renée.
The couple notes that they’ve had both tourist and local customers, but one demographic they’d like to appeal to are the commuters who can watch for the ferry as they grab their lattes.
Tell Your Friends’ hours are Sunday through Tuesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Thursday 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.