Have you ever driven down Kingsview Boulevard and wondered what that fancy new house on the west side is? You know the one – it’s possibly the most architecturally unique building in Airdrie, in a location that seems like a funny place to build a mansion.
Well, wonder no more, because it’s Brella Vida: Airdrie’s only corporate and community events facility plus a member’s only café and lounge.
There’s no big sign out front, and no big PR campaign or membership drive, which is all part of owner and self-proclaimed chief visionary officer Ron O’Neil’s low-key approach. Instead, a small sign by the sidewalk tells pedestrian passers-by what Brella Vida is all about.
“There’s nothing like it in Airdrie,” says O’Neil excitedly of the company and custom-designed facility.
Brella Vida is two companies in one, says O’Neil. It is a unique small events centre and a member’s only “amplified café”. Members gain access four days per week on a rotating schedule. The other days, non-members can secure Brella Vida for their own private event. To secure an event, O’Neil suggests making an appointment and tasting some of the amazing offerings from Brella Vida.
On the membership side, O’Neil came up with the idea for Brella Vida while working in different parts of the world.
“I spent lots of time in airport lounges. I experienced what chaos looks like, always on the lookout to find a brief “refuge from the storm”. Brella Vida was designed to provide such a refuge from the pressures of everyday life.”
With Brella Vida, O’Neil and his staff seek a more connected form of customer service.
“We want to know our members to ensure a tailored experience, without the pretentiousness that often comes with it.”
Those members are treated to a familiar, relaxing experience that begins with their custom member’s app that unlocks the front door, tells members about the day’s menu and takes care of the billing. If all that isn’t different enough, here’s another oddity: no tipping is permitted!
O’Neil initially bought land in Airdrie because the city was growing and there was no municipal business tax. At the time, he also wanted to be on “the other side of the airport” from Calgary. After he sold his previous company, he thought Airdrie may be ready for this kind of space and “this kind of ‘events-meets-membership’ kind of idea.”
The building itself is nothing short of spectacular. When you walk through the front doors, you’re greeted by a huge sunken, circular fire pit reminiscent of a groovier time. There’s a complete commercial kitchen, wood burning oven, quartz countertops everywhere and a bar faced with Himilayan salt blocks. Craft beer from local brewers, along with a very appealing red and white wines, are all on tap.
Upstairs, entering a code into a false book on the bookshelf allows access to a hidden boardroom with a hand-crafted wood-hewn table that seats 16 and a loft area housing a grand piano. Everything is app-controlled, making it one of the smartest buildings in Airdrie. Outside, there’s a huge south-facing deck overlooking a pond, fruit and pine trees and walking paths.
As amazing as both the form and function of the architecture are, however, it’s the quality of the human experience that sets Brella Vida apart. The Brella Vida team of Managing Director Brianna Blackburn, “Chef de Mission” Matt Formagin and Manager of IT and infrastructure Philip Ottenbreit, all have the customer experience as their number one priority.
“For members,” says O’Neil, “they have a relaxed environment where they can count on having a space to work or be social. They can influence the music and the menu. They enjoy the dedicated work of Red Seal Chef Matt by sometimes ordering “off-menu”. For events, our staff will work hard to make just about anything happen. For us, it’s fun to offer customer service tailored to the individual.”
In addition to growing membership and events clientele, future plans include holding cooking classes and sometimes selling ice-cream to the public. The best news of all about Brella Vida, however, is that it’s not too expensive to belong, and everyone is welcome.
“Our members are blue collar, white collar and even no collar,” laughs O’Neil. “No matter where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”