Adventure Approved Interview - Adrian Blachut of Zephyr & Ground Up

In this series, we will be interviewing the people behind your Local Favourite businesses in Squamish. Today we are interviewing Adrian, who operates Zephyr Cafe, Ground Up and also has a few more business opportunities on the horizon. Adrian is part of the new era of young driven entrepreneurs who are moving to Squamish for the lifestyle, and setting up successful businesses along the way. Enjoy this interview with a local favourite and learn why Adrian and his team at Zephyr Cafe are Adventure Approved.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you grew up?

I grew up in Vancouver, just outside UBC. In the summer, I spent a lot of time in the water at Kitsilano beach, SUP, paddling and playing beach volleyball. I still make it down every Tuesday evening for a beach volleyball game with my friends. After high school, I moved to Ontario to study marine biology at the University of Guelph. After the first year, I changed my elective to commerce, focusing on restaurants and hotels. I moved back home to Vancouver after university and started managing a big chain restaurant in the city.

What was your original perception of Squamish BC?

Like most Vancouverites, in the past I thought Squamish was a stop on the way to Whistler. We spent many of our weekends skiing with friends and family in Whistler, so my original perspective of Squamish comes from 20 years of driving the Sea to Sky highway and stopping at 99’s, an old milkshake shop that is now Galileo Coffee. I am happy to say that that perception has changed completely and I am happy to call this amazing community home.

How did you end up in Squamish?

Four years ago, my parents and I went hiking at Garibaldi Lake for the day. As we were driving back with the euphoric feeling from our hike, we passed by the Tantalus lookout stop on the highway where you can see all the houses in Squamish. This sparked my interest big time and I started to think that this place must be paradise; it’s the perfect location between Vancouver and Whistler with access to stunning wilderness all around.

After that family trip, I was inspired and decided that I had to make the move to Squamish, so I started thinking about how this could be feasible. With a small town, there are opportunities to create your own success, and this was the perfect location for a young driven entrepreneur who wanted to succeed in the restaurant industry. I also had a bit of luck in my timing. There was a perfect little Squamish cafe that was just starting to take off in popularity and the owners were looking for a change at that time. After a few months of research, I made the decision to buy The Zephyr Cafe and take over.

What are some of the best changes you have witnessed in our town in that time?

I feel like the town has been discovered. It is the best adult outdoor playground in the world. This is why all the young families have moved to town. The underground group that followed their passion for the outdoors is now mainstream. The community is coming together, creating the activities that they want to see. The trail builders, the guys cleaning and clearing the climbs and the volunteers who are making the outdoor city. This is what is drawing new people to the area and is helping the community to be exposed and found. It’s no longer a hidden secret.

What is your favourite activity in Squamish?

Previous to living here, I loved to come to Squamish to hike and paddle. Since moving here, I picked up rock climbing and I love the climbing community.

What would be your ideal Squamish Adventure Day?

Start the day early at Zephyr Cafe, after taking my dog out for a walk. After the cafe, I would take my dog to a lake for a dip and a jump. Then find some friends and start an adventure. The best adventures, like a small biz, are never planned; if you knew what you were getting into you wouldn’t.

Tell me what you do for work?

I am the owner of Zephyr Cafe, Ground Up and am working on a few more projects that are  coming soon… The indoor climbing center Ground Up,  has been a wonderful project with Lauren Watson.  Between those businesses and a few other opportunities, I manage to stay very busy for work.

What makes Zephyr a local favourite?

The food, coffee and service are what draw people there. However, the community and atmosphere that we build is what continues to draw people back again and again. We have a strong following of repeat customers and loyal people. There are options around for dining, so you have to put out a product that people will like and will draw people back again and again.

How do you manage to balance your hard work while still enjoying the outdoor lifestyle in Squamish?

I am not balancing it too well at this stage, as with most entrepreneurs who have a passion. However, to counter that I create businesses that I have fun doing, for the most part. This way I can justify and enjoy the time and energy I put into my businesses.  Climbing is part of the research for Ground Up, and eating good wholesome food is part of the research for the Zephyr cafe.

What is your vision for the future of outdoor recreation in Squamish?

My vision is for a future that is sustainable and safe. As more people are using the areas, we need to keep them clean and keep the nature that we love. This also needs to have an element of education and safety as more people are visiting and taking more risks while they are exploring our backcountry. We want to balance risk and ensure that people are taking lessons and know the risk before they head out. These backcountry activities are becoming more and more accessible to the masses, so we need to ensure that people are being taught how to partake and enjoy all that Squamish has to offer in a safe manner.

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