The story of the On Running shoe began in 2010 with former professional athlete Olivier Bernhard and his friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti. They devoted themselves to one revolutionary goal: to create the best and most comfortable running shoe in the game.
The combination of design and efficiency of Swiss engineering resulted in development of dozens of prototypes, all with the same foundation: cushioned landing and firm takeoff. Soon after, the shoes began to win innovation, design and technology awards along with the praises of several elite athletes. Today On Running is internationally recognized for their technical design aspects, extreme comfort, and versatility.
We caught up with two of our good friends and local business owners, Curtis Olson, and Andy Yuen to talk about some of the core concepts behind On Running: technical and intentional design, running, sustainability and community.
Curtis Olson. Commercial and Residential Developer.
Focus on design, materials and aesthetic has been a large part of the success at Shift Development. What inspires you design wise?
For me, I get inspired when I see projects that really bring a community of like-minded people together through design that is specific to the culture. Deus Ex Machina is a great example of how a space and retail shop can totally elevate a culture.
As a developer, we always design the projects to provide an exceptional backdrop for the personalities and style of our business tenants, at The Two Twenty, and for our home buyers at our residential projects. That means leaning heavily on a modern simplicity and timeless materials in our project, while always leaving room for people to bring their style and personality to be overlaid on our projects.
I’m always searching for great ideas related to adaptive reuse of buildings and creative density plays for residential. I’m more interested in form over aesthetic and context always matters to me.
You’ve taken up running and have been wearing On shoes for a while now. What drew you to get a pair?What motivates you to keep rolling, even in our chilly Saskatoon winters?
My first pair were a limited-edition version of the Cloud’s that had a light gray terry cloth type of material and the signature treads. I thought they looked great and was blown away when I walked around in them. The comfort was exceptional, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. They’re easily my most worn sneaker and are my go-to shoes anytime we’re hitting the Meewasin Valley Trails along the river.
For me, running is a combination of a meditation, exercise, and connection to nature. We live right on Victoria Park and my run is along the amazing South Saskatchewan River, which goes through amazing transformations on a daily and seasonal basis. There’s a level of tranquility that exists at 6 am or at -30 that can leave me feeling like I own the river. That always recharges my batteries to the deepest level.
How does nature and exploring the outdoors help you achieve your career goals?
Being out in nature, whether it’s walking along the river, paddle boarding upstream or going on big camping trips is a grounding force in my life. It helps to re-establish priorities for me and keeps my work in check. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do with work, but it’s only one part of my life. I find that the more balance I have, the less I cling to work goals and somehow the easier those goals seem to materialize.
Solar Energy is a concrete concept at Shift Development. Why is clean energy and sustainability fundamental to you?
I did an Engineering Physics degree and typically look at every project we do from the energy perspective first. I try to push the sustainability level on our projects as far as I can without putting our projects at too great of risk financially. Examples are the solar powered electric car share at Element Urban Village, or by generating ⅓ of annual electricity needs at The Two Twenty using rooftop solar. Sometimes I see these as small real-world experiments to see what will work. In the case of the electric car share, it was a huge success with some condo residents but not all of them. I realized it would be much more successful if I implemented it in a larger scale residential rental project instead of the condo project at Element.
You embrace a lifestyle where you live and work in the same neighbourhood; enjoying local restaurants, small businesses, nature, and the river all while embracing the community within. What does this mean to you?
Our lifestyle is no accident. When Carrie and I moved back from BC in 2005, we set out to build a connected and collaborative lifestyle. That’s why we live, work, and play in Riversdale. We’ve got a skatepark out our front door, a 7-acre park where the city cuts the grass, and an amazing cluster of business owners and coworkers at the Two Twenty. We simply don’t have many reasons to leave the area as it provides for 90% of our weekly needs.
Andy Yuen, Restauranteur. Engineer. Design enthusiast
Alongside your family, you own and operate the restaurant Odd Couple, a highly favoured Chinese Canadian Restaurant in Saskatoon. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration and the design process of a dish?
Designing and creating dishes has become one of my favourite parts of my role at Odd Couple. I am not a trained chef, but I love food – particularly Asian flavours. I was born and raised in Hong Kong and immigrated to Saskatchewan when I was 15. I worked at both my uncle’s and my parents’ small town Chinese Canadian restaurants. This background made me want to merge Cantonese / Asian flavours with Canadian ingredients. Taking classic dishes but making our own version.
There are so many great dishes in Asia, but there is a difference preference in texture, spices etc. which Canadians/North Americans differ from Asians. The challenges sometimes would be how to incorporate these amazing flavours but in a different cut of meat. It takes cycles of trial and error to create a new dish. It’s challenging but fun. Credit our kitchen staff for going along with my crazy ideas.
During COVID, no one could travel, so we created a set menu series called “Travels with Odd Couple” which is a dinner series of set menus featuring a particular region of cuisine. It’s not aimed to be authentic; rather an inspiration and a basis to merge Asian favours with Canadian ingredients while having some fun. Our current Travels with Odd Couple destination is Mexico. How can we merge Mexican cuisine with Japanese? Cantonese? Can a taco also be sushi? Can we make a Cantonese style roasted pork belly with Mexican spices? I think of these possibilities when creating new items.
What are your favourite ways to stay active?
I love basketball! Typically, I’d go shoot hoops at least once a week. My routine is that I will go make 100 three-pointers (make 50 catch and shoot, make 50 off the dribble) within 45 mins every Sunday morning. I use an app to record my drills so that I can check out my shooting percentages, as well as my shooting form – makes and misses.
I also go to Craven Sport Services. They have a training program I go to about 3 times a week, since 2019. I stopped during COVID and have been back since March this year. The program consists of weightlifting, core workouts and some basketball training - jumping and leg pivoting exercises.
Why is being physically active important to you?
I really enjoy exercising for both physical and mental reasons. Usually, I’d pick a podcast to listen to while exercising. It really helps me to clear my mind, spend time getting stronger and really feel better mentally. I find I’m a lot more productive and less tired overall when I exercise. Working in a restaurant setting can be very hard on the body – long hours standing and walking on hard surfaces, bartending and carrying heavy dishes. Exercise makes me stronger, and I can experience less fatigue at work.
Sustainability is a concept only growing with importance as time goes on. How does sustainability work into your life?
Minimizing waste – We try to use all parts of our ingredients as much as possible. We use chicken bones to make broth. We compost all food waste (at home and at the restaurant). Occasionally we have large catering functions (or extra food in general) and we package meals to donate to less fortunate folks within our community. It ensures they get to eat Odd Couple and ensures less waste.
Odd Couple resides in the community of Riversdale, well known for its list of eclectic shops, lively restaurants, artistic expression, and rich cultural history. What does a strong sense of community mean to you? What does working in this community mean to you?
We are incredibly grateful to be in Riversdale and especially being located in the TwoTwenty Building. We have amazing relationships with our neighbours such as Hardpressed, 9 Mile Legacy Brewery, Fable Ice-cream, the Mandarin Restaurant, and our landlord Shift Developments. During COVID, we started a group chat between a few small business owners on our block. It’s been great to navigate the pandemic together and learn from each other.
9 Mile Legacy Brewery has become close friends and an amazing business partner. They make a 9 Mile x Odd Couple Collaboration beer for us. They’ve created a special beer for each “Travels with Odd Couple” menu. Fable Ice-cream creates ice-cream for our set menu as well.
Saskatoon is a small city and doesn't have much of a “China Town”. Historically Riversdale is where the Chinese and Asian grocery stores and restaurants initially located. As a modern Asian restaurant, it’s great to bring in new ideas to this historic neighbourhood. The Riversdale neighbourhood has lots of new stores, but also non-profits, and a population that is less fortunate. It’s important for us to integrate within this community and give back. The past few years, instead of having an advertising budget, we donated food and money to CLASSIC – Community Legal Assistance Legal Services for Saskatoon Inner City, Habitat for Humanity and Sanctum Care Group. We need to do much more and plan on developing more relationships with NPO’s in our community.