Philippine diner owner cooks up success in Canada at Okanagan restaurant

Philippine diner owner cooks up success in Canada at Okanagan restaurant

Rosalinda Smelser is recongized as a Community Champion for her work

Rosalinda Smelser made the long journey from a small town in the Philippines to Canada with dreams of a better life for her young family. Her entrepreneurial journey has grown from selling spices door-to-door to opening one of Vernon’s busiest restaurants.

Smelser is energetic with an unassuming manner and easy smile that perhaps explains why Rosalinda’s Diner has become such a popular spot for many locals. Brightly-coloured, bustling with friendly chatter, and warm with the smell of home-baked bread, the popularity of the restaurant is a testament to the hard work Smelser still puts in today.

Her work consumes nearly 90 hours each week and so there isn’t much time for volunteering. However, she fondly recalls competing in the Winter Carnival’s chili cook-off and organizing a free family event at the Halina Centre, gathering door prizes, serving food, and crafting decorations and lanterns that were gifted to the hall.

When the devastating Typhoon Yolanda occurred in 2013, Smelser organized pancake breakfasts to help the families who were affected.

In 2015, they visited the poor farming community in her hometown in the Philippines hosting breakfast with Santa, and giving packages of rice, sardines, milk powder and instant noodles to the children and their families. Now, Smelser beams about her five-year old granddaughter spearheading donations of backpacks and food to school children in the Philippines.

As a young mother, Smelser needed to earn money so she could flee a bad marriage to safety and support her five daughters. At age 18, her first business was buying and re-packaging bulk peanuts, garlic and bay leaves into smaller portions for sale at lunch counters. Later, she opened her own store, but with children to care for it was not possible to provide for her family.

In a difficult decision, Smelser left her children with her mom to work in Manila and Singapore. Seeking a better future, she saw an ad for Canada and decided to pursue the opportunity.

“I read in a book that Canada is kind of a freedom country.”

The family was reunited, living many years in Williams Lake, and in 1999 they moved to Vernon where her daughters had greater opportunities with school and work.

After working 18 years in a restaurant, Smelser knew she wanted to do it herself.

“One day a customer told us: ‘you can make homemade soup and sandwiches downtown.’”

So, they leased a shuttered building, spent three months doing renovations and opened Rosalinda’s in 2011.

Today, it’s clearly been worth it. Two daughters and grandchildren work in the restaurant alongside Smelser and her husband, Todd, each day.

“It’s hard work. I wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning every day to bake the bread, getting ready for breakfast and lunch. I make my own, because the customer can tell if it’s homemade.”

October 2019 marks eight years running the restaurant. It’s a long way from pedalling her bike selling her basket of goods on consignment. She is grateful for her life in Canada.

“I’m so blessed with my employees because they are very honest and very hardworking,” and for her family, “We’re all in Vernon. Our life is here now with all five daughters and grandkids living in the North Okanagan.”


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Riverside Forest Walk walk begins at the BC Interior Forestry Museum on Highway 23. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke trail network to expand with the help of CBT funding

Four Revelstoke projects received a total of almost $80,000

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society said Revelstoke’s dark downtown core is unwelcoming. Lighting would make it more inviting and a point of interest. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
New community group hopes to ‘light up’ Revelstoke

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society aims to purchase decorative lights for the downtown core

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Oliver Fire Department. (Submitted photo)
Burn pile fire spreads to nearby garage in Oliver

The fire could be seen from Highway 97 and was called in at 3:45 a.m.

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Last year, more than 80 parents braved sub-zero temperatures to stand in line at Vernon’s Beairsto Elementary to ensure a Kindergarten spot for their children come September. Now, this first-come, first-served system is about to change. (Morning Star file photo)
COVID exposure at Vernon elementary school

Interior Health reporting exposure Feb. 19 and 22 at Beairsto

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read