PIP/MEAT/The NExt aCT
Michael Rebalkin couldn't see over the counter when he served his first cup of coffee.
He was just 8 years old.
His family owned a business on Calgary Trail and Whyte Avenue.
That business is no more, but Rebalkin is.
Rebalkin got his start in the industry as a kid selling coffee at the Java Jive- a family business situated in the current location of a pub named The Next Act. He would go on to work for employers such as Earl’s and Joey’s (now JOEY) in roles ranging from dishwashing to management. In July 2010 Rebalkin settled on a deal to purchase The Next Act and “fill a need in his career.” That is, owning and operating a restaurant. Or three restaurants, as it turned out.
Rebalkin is now the co-owner of not only The Next Act, but also Pip, a restaurant on the corner of Calgary Trail and 83rd Avenue that specializes in “elevated comfort food,” wine, and cocktails, and Meat, a Texan-inspired barbecue centering around variations of, well, meat. The restaurants are co-owned by Angus, Nathan McLaughlin, his best friend since preschool, and Saylish Haas, a friend of his and McLaughlin’s since high school. Their friend Mike Angus also has an ownership role in Pip.
According to Rebalkin, Meat and Pip came about through a combination of proximity and good luck. Meat’s current location was previously occupied by a clothing store named Q Clothing. Rebalkin and his friends were walking by one day when they noticed that it was going out of business. Haas, smelling opportunity, suggested that the three of them buy open a second restaurant in the location, and suggested that they open a barbecue smokehouse. All this despite Haas being a vegetarian.
After researching the steakhouse business in Austin, Texas, Meat was opened, as was Pip soon after. “With Pip,” says Rebalkin, “the exact same thing happened.” A retail location went under, and Rebalkin, McLaughlin, Haas, and Angus made the most of the opportunity.
The three restaurants have become staples of the Whyte Avenue and Old Strathcona restaurant scene.
“There’s no neighbourhood like it,” says Rebalkin. “The character, the history, the clientele, just the inclusivity of this neighbourhood. We’re proud to be a part of it.”
The restaurants’ deep roots in the community extend to several community arts organizations, such as the Fringe Festival and the Varscona Theatre. His restaurants have also cooked and served food for the Ronald McDonald House, and have also been involved with the Mustard Seed, the Neighbour Centre, Hope Mission, and, of course, Free Footie, which was suggested to him by Linda Ha of Whyte Ave barber shop Barber Ha.
Rebalkin was immediately drawn to the premise of Free Footie. “We saw a need, and saw that we could help financially, so we went for it.”
A select group of teams affiliated with Free Footie will take the field proudly sporting jerseys with Pip’s pineapple logo, and Rebalkin couldn’t be more thrilled about it. “That competitive atmosphere is a fundamental part of growing up,” says Rebalkin, “and we’re so, so proud to be a part of this.”
Written by: Stefan Salegio