The ONLY – A Lesson in Success

What’s The Only?

The Only used to be a very tiny little restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada which was known far and wide.


It’s a lesson in success:  Provide a good product at a good price with energy, enthusiasm and a smile!  Create “an experience” every single time.   They’ll pack in!

Was it a dump?

The Only may have been considered to be a “dump” by some.  But the diamonds, rubies and gold which shone on some people would tell a different story. They came too – the rich.

On the other hand, the person sitting on the next stool could be someone quite poor.  The rich and the poor mingled every single night, 7 days a week at this little “steamer”.  There was no snobbery – everyone conversed with everyone else – it was the name of the game.

It was very tiny – counters with stools and a couple of tables against the wall.  There was always a waiting line – people crowded at the door like sardines waiting for someone to leave.  The shouts of glee when someone finally got a seat!

The Chinese cooks cooked right in front of the counters – big black woks, steaming away till the last customer was out the door – in the wee, wee hours of the morning – clang, bang, sizzle . . .

The menu was small – very small – clams, mussels, fresh fish, a few noodles and vegetables – that’s it.  But everything was clean and fresh – that’s one of the main attractions – fresh shellfish, fresh vegetables and cooked fresh – right there, right now.

There was no waiter or waitress – just cooks – they took your order – no 1, 2, 3, 4, . . . ..  Done.  In minutes, you had your order!  Sumptuous, flavorful – the wafts of onion and garlic were constant and made those waiting drool in anticipation!

People came back for more – from Toronto, New York, Europe – all over the world – The Only was the place to go!  The word was:  if you didn’t go to The Only, you really missed something special!

What happened?

There are still a few holes in the wall like The Only.  The Only itself succumbed to massive development projects in downtown Vancouver.  Sometimes change is not always what it is cracked up to be!

People still talk about The Only today.  It has never been duplicated.  And yet . . . what a simple and effective business model – fresh food cooked fresh with lots of energy and enthusiasm at a good price and a smile welcoming everyone – rich and poor – and each person was treated the same.  It was an experience!  Everyone was made to feel as though they were part of the scene!

You got to know the names of the cooks.  They spoke very little English but were always friendly and fast. You felt “at home”.

Lorraine Arams

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