Successful entrepreneurs have an ability to see what consumers are yearning for, then provide a product or service to fill that gap. This is precisely what Das Kumar did when he opened Soo Blaster. Having lived in a few major urban centres – first is his hometown of Colombo, Sri Lanka, then in Toronto – he saw what those cities were offering in the form of entertainment. When Das purchased a couple businesses in Northern Ontario and moved to Sault Ste. Marie with his family last year, he saw an opportunity to fulfill a niche.
“I asked myself, ‘Why are some youth leaving the Sault?’ and quickly realized that a lot of it had to do with entertainment options, or lack thereof,” said Das. “I wanted to build something different – something to give citizens a unique experience.” This insight got his entrepreneurial wheels turning. Das owns Day Inn & Suites on Bay Street. The building had around 40,000 square feet of vacant space, which provided the perfect setting for his proposed venture. And so became Soo Blaster.
The entertainment business and restaurant offers an arcade, billiards and sport simulators with games including golf, hockey, soccer, cricket and hunting. It also features 25 televisions, making it a prime place to watch your favourite team while enjoying fresh food and an ice-cold beverage. With a number of private rooms, the joint caters to birthday parties during the day. And at night on the weekends, the lights are dimmed and DJs or comedians are brought in. Simply put, Soo Blaster offers entertainment for people of all ages.
“The idea was to create a place with multiple uses, and I’m really happy with the end product,” said general manager Erik Neilsen, an industry veteran who has owned and operated a number of restaurants and bars in Ontario. “It’s wonderful to see people come in and have fun. I love to entertain people and see smiles on their faces. It’s a great business to be in.”
Before opening its doors, the Soo Blaster team first met with the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. Staff from the non-profit organization provided assistance in a number of areas, including business planning, marketing and maneuvering through the regulatory approval process. “The support we received from the EDC and other community groups was very helpful in getting the business off the ground,” said Das. “I’m very happy with the support we’ve gotten, and I thank everyone who has helped us get to where we are.”
Soo Blaster, which employs 45 staff, celebrated its formal grand opening on December 1. Mayor Christian Provenzano, along with representatives from the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, took part in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Meanwhile, Das’ transition to Northern Ontario is, in and of itself, an interesting saga. Following a move from Sri Lanka to Toronto many years ago, he purchased a restaurant in White River. After buying Days Inn & Suites in Sault Ste. Marie, the entrepreneur decided to make the community his permanent home. “It’s a great place to raise a family,” said Das. “The quality of life is second to none. We’re very happy to be in Sault Ste. Marie. It’s a great city.”
Soo Blaster has been a major sponsor of the Soo Greyhounds OHL hockey team. The business also sponsors a number of amateur sports teams and youth clubs. “He has only been in the city for a short period of time, but Das has really made a commitment to give back to the community,” said John Febbraro, Manager of Industrial & Business Development for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. “He’s very community-minded and a great addition to our city.”
To learn more about Soo Blaster, go to www.sooblaster.com. For additional information on the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, including its business support programs and services, visit www.sault-canada.com.