The bar business is highly competitive, especially for new bars hoping to capture the next wave of clubbers. Knowing your target market is essential and the owners of Onyx Nightclub on Wyndham Street believe their youth and knowledge gives them a competitive edge
“We know our market,” said Cindy Collins. “We are our market.”
Compared to her partners, Collins is a relative newcomer to the bar business but she brings with her a valuable skillset.
“I have a background in corporate marketing and sales and a formal education in business marketing,” she said. “Last year when my brother approached me about this he knew I was looking for a different place to invest my time and money. I am always looking for the next interesting project to work on and I like to create new things.”
She says Onyx is a bar that knows what it is and just as important, what it’s not.
“Onyx is at its essence a true nightclub/dance club,” she said. “We’re not also a restaurant during the day and we’re not also a pub on certain nights of the week where you pull up a barstool, drink a pint and listen to acoustic music. We’re not trying to be a trivia bar or a dollar-a-beer establishment. We are a nightclub where you are coming to dance and hang out with your friends.”
Her three partners all have background and experience in the bar business and were also looking for a new opportunity.
“We were fortunate to come together at the right time and strike when the opportunity arose,” said Mike Falcioni. “It was just the right time for all of us to do that.”
Falcioni is a familiar face in the Guelph bar scene.
“I started as a security guard and moved my way up into management.,” he said. “By the end of it I was managing Van Gogh’s, Vinyl and Jimmy Jazz.”
He got out of the business for a while and focused on a career in the automotive sector but he missed the excitement of the club scene.
“I started looking for bars in Toronto and actually everywhere else but Guelph,” he said. “Bilay let me know that Apartment 58 was coming up for sale. It’s a great location right downtown at the four corners. I couldn’t say no.”
Bilay Badoe is a musician, deejay, promoter and co-owner of DSTRCT Lounge on Macdonell. He has known their landlords and the former owners of Apartment 58 Dario Di Renzo and Chuck Nash for a number of years.
“They have been trying to get me over here for a while,” said Badoe. “Luckily the whole thing came together where I knew Mike and Edward. From that Cindy got involved. We decided this is the year we should take over the place before it gets taken by someone who doesn’t represent what we think downtown Guelph needs.”
Edward Collins, Cindy Collins younger brother, worked as a manager in the restaurant and bar business for nearly 15 years before becoming a climb designer for the Guelph Grotto and The Junction in London.
“I came back last summer after a two-month long climbing trip and Bilay had already been in the works with Mike on this whole venture,” he said. “They approached me and I brought all that info to my sister because she is very knowledgeable on the business end of things. I wanted to know what she thought of the idea and it ended up panning out.”
Cindy has more than 15 years in business marketing and administration and four years ago started a business consultant company called Cidea.
“It focuses on providing consulting services of a marketing or sales nature and it’s made up of a collective of millennial business freelancers,” she said. “Companies hire us to solve problems for them so we are very nimble and we work on different things all the time.”
She also has 20 years of experience producing music festivals and other events.
“I had a production company when I was in my teens where we put on live music events here in Guelph,” she said. “In my corporate background I did a lot of trade show planning.”
Her business concepts have influenced the direction and operating philosophy of Onyx and the team’s collective understanding and connection to the Gen X and Millennial generations rounds out the formula.
“That’s what sets us apart from many of our counterparts,” she said. “Other clubs may have teams of management or promoters who are in our age group but the owners are often a different demographic with a different perspective.”
That said, they recognise the wisdom and experience their established neighbours downtown have shared and are grateful to Nash and DiRenzo as well as club owner Conrad Aikens and manager Samantha Gilbert for the guidance and mentorship they have provided.
They had a soft launch for Onyx in February to get their footing and work out any bugs.
“What we are working on right now is our grand re-opening or grand re-launch for September,” said Collins. “The number one thing that united all of us is our desire. That is the glue that held us together through the process of purchasing the bar, renovating it, and launching it. We create. We design. We battle it out together through the good and the bad. We aren’t afraid to roll up our sleeves and do the work ourselves.”