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 speed humps the City of Salmon Arm installed on Okanagan Avenue behind city hall appear to be working, report city staff. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Speed humps near Salmon Arm’s Fletcher Park considered a success

City staff say traffic has slowed accordingly, visibility will improve when street light replaced

An Enderby restaurant and pub was shut down Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub reopens after COVID-19 scare

After a guest reportedly tested positive for the virus, staff test results came back negative

As the deadline draws closer for the distribution of Christmas hampers, the Salvation Army in Salmon Arm is concerned that it has not received enough applications yet and people will be going without. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Time running out for people in Salmon Arm to apply for hampers

Salvation Army urges residents to make appointments right away to get help with food at Christmas

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

The White Lake Fire Department tallied an impressive total from their annual food drive. (Contributed)
White Lake firefighters haul in impressive food bank donations

One-night food drive brought in more than 2,000 lbs for Sorrento food bank

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Alix Longland
Trauma resources ready for North Okanagan refugees

Family Resource Centre working with UBCO social work grad to reach out to local refugees

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Students at Lavington Elementary crammed a car full of non-perishables for those in the community facing food insecurity. Spearheaded by teacher January Peebles (left), the donations were picked up by Give LUCK founder Myrika Godard, who works to connect donors with donees in the North Okanagan. (Give LUCK photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read