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

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Veteran Henry Kriwokon has his photo taken by the Western as he celebrates his 99th birthday with friends at the Cellar in Downtown Penticton. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)
Turning 101, Penticton veteran looks back on life

Henry Kriwokon was one of the soldiers in the famous ‘Wait for me, Daddy’ photo

A historic home near Granny’s Fruit Stand in Summerland was the home of two of the community’s mayors. J.R. Campbell and Don Cameron both lived at the home on Highway 97 in Summerland, but not at the same time. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Historic house was home to two Summerland mayors

Building along Highway 97 was constructed in 1906

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-govenance wishes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Historic poem is appropriate for new U.S. president

In 1941, Roosevelt made reference to poem by Longfellow

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Most Read