Doug Townsend is co-owner of The Canteen and Little C Take-out in downtown Dartmouth. He is also chair of the board for the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission.
Townsend says, as long as he can remember, he has had a serious love for food. He says he learned to cook at a young age and loved to try new recipes for his family. By university, Townsend had his eye on a career that allowed him to explore his “appetite” for food culture.
“I was fortunate to land a job that was food focused and that passion continued to grow. For years, I worked to promote our local food scene from a marketing perspective.”
It was in 2005 that Doug met Renee Lavallee. Back then, the Quebec-born chef was an up and comer but is now an award-winning celebrity food personality, co-owner of the Canteen and Little C Takeout – and his wife!
“When we met, Renee was working in PEI as a chef. I spent pretty much every weekend travelling to the Island to see her.”
Townsend says he and Lavallee hit it off and eventually moved to downtown Dartmouth when his sister’s house became vacant on Maple Street. That was 16 years ago.
“When we moved here, there wasn’t nearly as much going on. There were not many businesses downtown. At that time, we worked in Halifax and our friends were there, so that’s where we spent our free time.”
Fast-forward to 2021, and Townsend says his life is entirely different. He and Renee now have two children, and the family orbit revolves around their businesses on Portland Street. By necessity and by choice, they spend most of their time in downtown Dartmouth. The community has become vibrant and energized, attracting new residents and business owners every year.
“We are on our way to becoming one of the coolest destinations to visit or live in. That reality is very much within reach now.”
The pandemic has been challenging for all, but Townsend says there have been bright spots. One of those was getting an unexpected shout out from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on national television last April, to recognize The Canteen for temporarily shifting into a community kitchen to provide meals for folks in need.
“Renee and I were at home during lockdown and we started getting texts. It was kind of amazing. Our goal was to help people that needed help more than we did. We weren’t expecting recognition, but it felt pretty incredible!”
Townsend and Renee Lavallee at the Canteen in April 2020, when the restaurant was converted temporarily into a community kitchen to serve meals to people in need.
Giving back is a big part of Townsend’s mission as a business owner. He is presently on the board for the North Grove, Discover Halifax and DDBC. His tenure as chair of the downtown Dartmouth board ends this June, but he promises to remain invested in the community.
“One of the things I get excited about is a shared vision with other businesses and organizations about what we want downtown Dartmouth be. Many people are working together to make it a vibrant and healthy community for all its residents.”