Riding the gravy train with Ryan Smolkin

Smoke’s Poutinerie founder, Ryan Smolkin, talks global domination after graduating from Laurier

Photo by Ryan Smolkin
Photo by Ryan Smolkin

In 1991, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Bricker Residence was being built, the football team was busy winning the Vanier Cup and Ryan Smolkin was enrolled in the school’s business program before starting up his national food chain, Smoke’s Poutinerie.

24 years later, Smolkin has the opportunity to see the infamous face of his prosperous business in the university’s food terrace.

“I got down [to Laurier] and hung out with a bunch of the people there, got to walk around the campus, it was awesome,” said Smolkin. “It felt like being back at home.”

The Terrace’s Smoke Poutinerie, which opened at the beginning of the fall semester, is already a massive success with hungry Laurier students.

Since its creation in 2008 in Toronto, Smoke’s Poutinerie has launched over 100 restaurants across Canada.

The franchise also ventured into the United States, with restaurants located in California, Nevada and Florida.

After graduating from Laurier in 1995, Smolkin went on to become the co-founder of the branding and media company, AmoebaCorp, which produced work for clients such as the Canadian television channel YTV and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

Between 2004 and 2006, Smolkin also sold properties around the Waterloo region to other students.

“I was a slum lord, I owned properties there, I got my first property when I was in third-year university there and I pumped as many buddies as I could into that space as the ultimate party house,” he said.

Smolkin owned 13 properties around the Waterloo region before the hit of the 2008 Canadian recession.

He then went towards the world of entrepreneurship and the Smoke’s chain began.

For his entrepreneurial success, Smolkin only has Laurier to thank.

“I always say it’s the best school in the world, and what better place for global domination than global domination here, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Laurier, the number one school.”

During his university career, Smolkin also had the opportunity to be a part of Laurier’s football team, which went on to win the 1991 Vanier Cup.

“I only played for a couple of years, but I got the ring for the Vanier Cup in ‘91, so I’m proud of that, but I wasn’t [at Laurier] for football. I was there for business but it was fun, the best four years of my life.”

In terms of his business, having one international franchise brand isn’t enough for Smolkin — two extensions have recently opened up to the public, Smoke’s Weinerie and Smoke’s Burritorie, the latter opening up in Toronto on September 14 to customers lining down the block .

“I’m not satisfied with having just one international brand franchise that’s the top franchisee to ever come out of Canada, now why not launch other two international chains and restaurants, you know, just for the hell of it,” Smolkin said.

Smolkin confessed Laurier students may see a Smoke’s Weinerie or Burritorie on campus in the future.

“Let’s just say it’s in discussion, there are discussions in the works definitely with a Burritorie and most likely a Weinerie, just saying rumour has it.”


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