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Penticton a slice of heaven for immigrant business owners

Belle and Romeo went from working hard at pizza restaurants to opening their own Fresh Slice

In March 2015, Romeo Medrano remembers tears streaming down his face as he sang the Canadian anthem for the first time as a new Canadian at a citizenship ceremony at Penticton’s Cleland Theatre. Unbeknownst to him, his picture would make the front page of the Western News that day.

Fast-forward eight years and he is now the proud owner of a Fresh Slice pizza restaurant in downtown Penticton.

“We put it in our prayers and were granted the franchise in June 2023,” said Medrano in between serving customers.

From the Philippines to Kuwait, where he met his wife, Belle, to Penticton — with a whole lot of hard work in between — Medrano and Belle have made the Canadian dream come true.

The couple opened Fresh Slice at 205 Martin Street on Dec. 8, 2023 - The Feast of the Immaculate Conception Day.

“For us, that day is very significant. On opening day, the community just embraced us, friends and family brought flowers, we were crying,” said Belle.

The couple had been working at pizza restaurants in Penticton since 2008, working their way up in management. In 2015, Medrano was promoted to district manager of the Okanagan area stores and Belle was promoted to general manager.

Then they took a leap of faith last year to open their own restaurant.

“We were a little bit scared to do it. We aren’t rich, but we are really hard workers,” said Belle.

They weren’t sure what franchise to choose but a stop in Kelowna at a Fresh Slice changed that. They tasted the pizza and it was ‘delicious,’ said Medrano. Fresh Slice offers all the regular favourites but also some others like the beef with white sauce and a Penticton favourite of butter and BBQ chicken. There’s also make your own.

Not only do they own the Penticton Fresh Slice, but it’s the biggest one in Canada, they said.

When creating the restaurant, the couple felt it was important to incorporate pictures of things that make Penticton special like the SS Sicamous and the Penticton sign.

“We love living in Penticton,” said Medrano. “We want people visiting here and those living here to see how much we appreciate this city.”

He still remembers the feeling he had when he became a citizen.

“I was singing and crying because this country is beautiful, this is our country now and we are so blessed,” he said.

Belle and Medrano arrived in Penticton to -23 C and snow, a big difference from Kuwait where it was 42 C.

“We didn’t have any winter clothes or boots and were walking through the snow to a hotel where we first lived,” said Medrano. “We didn’t know anyone, there wasn’t a very big Filipino community at that time. The hotel manager was so good to us and we are still friends. She was like a mother to Belle.”

They have hosted an international student since he was in Grade 9 and this year they get to see him graduate.

Since opening Fresh Slice, the reception has been amazing and they feel grateful to live in a caring community like Penticton. They hope to give back as much as they can. They are interested in sponsoring sports teams and encourage teams to get in touch with them.

“We want to give back to the community that has given us so much,” said Medrano.

Fresh Slice is open seven days a week until late.

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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