As Diane Yamei Min waited and welcomed her first customers at So Inviting, she could hear her heartbeats.
Diane was well-prepared for everything on opening day. In fact, she had been waiting for this moment for a long time – long enough to call it a continuation of family heritage and a “life purpose.”
Eventually, on a mild May day in 2017, she opened her own dumplings takeout restaurant, So Inviting.
The restaurant now has 4.9/5 stars and over 90 five-star reviews on Google, but her path to this popular dumpling place in London took several twists.
Diane first arrived in Calgary when she immigrated to Canada from northern China with her husband in 2002. Over a decade in Calgary, she switched multiple jobs, from dishwasher, to college student, to “Super Host” in the local casino, to an income tax professional at H & R Block.
Wherever she went and whatever position she was in, one thing remained the same – she liked sharing homemade dumplings with her classmates, coworkers and friends.
“The feedback was terrific. They told me they could not find dumplings as good as mine in the city,” Diane said proudly. “I knew it because the dumpling recipe was handed down from my grandfather who had run a dumpling business for decades.”
Running a dumpling takeout business came to her mind when she decided to give back to the welcoming and friendly society.
“I have gotten so much help both in school and the workplace because my English is not good enough,” she said. “Besides, without government assistance, I was not able to attend college.”
Diane and her husband moved to London in 2014, buying a house in Old East Village. They started a two-year long renovation of the entire house, doing most of the work themselves. Eventually, the restaurant opened in the early summer of 2017.
With her previous experiences, Diane not only learned restaurant operation and customer service, but also was able to manage accounting and tax for her own business.
“I do what I say, and this is my personality,” She said, “Once I set up my goal, I never give up.”
She and her husband wake up at 5 a.m. everyday to prepare dumplings and buns for the day, because besides the secret traditional dumpling recipe, fresh ingredients are also key to a richer taste of the food.
From preparing dough, chopping and seasoning ingredients, wrapping dumplings and buns to steaming or frying, they are entirely handmade from scratch by Diane and her husband. They also set aside two days a week to make frozen dumplings for those who want delicious food to make at home.
“Whenever I see customers [are] happy, I am happy too,” she said.
Just like the name of the place, Diane is so very inviting. Walking into the store, you will always catch her smiling, and head tilting to one side as she looks at you, then with a grin, she would ask, “Have you been here before? Come and try a sample!”
“I’m lucky that I could do the things that I love for a living,” she said. “It seems it’s my life purpose to run the dumplings takeout and I will do the best I can and spend the rest of my life doing the business to see how far I can go.”
Diane’s grandpa passed away before she came to Canada, but the taste of home and memory continues. Her dream is to spread the delicious taste of dumplings in London and across Canada.