A fresh start

Rishi Sankhla poses outside his Freshii store on April 19. 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Former pharmacy technician opens city’s first Freshii

After working in some of the city’s pharmacies for eight years, Rishi Sankhla knew he wanted a change.

Sankhla came to Prince Albert nine years ago. He’s a pharmacist by trade, but doesn’t have all of his certifications to practice in Saskatchewan. He’s been serving as a pharmacy technician for Shoppers Drug Mart and for Medi-Centre pharmacy.

“I wanted to do something for me,” Sankhla said. “Here I am.”

Thursday, Sankhla celebrated the official grand opening of his new venture, Prince Albert’s first Freshii. Sankhla is the franchise owner and manager of the new location, and says it’s a perfect fit with his lifestyle.

Freshii is one of the world’s fastest growing restaurant chains. It was founded by Winnipeg -born Matthew Corin. He came up with the idea while working in New York City for fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. The chain focuses on making healthy food convenient and affordable.

For Sankhla, that’s an area of the Prince Albert food scene that was missing.

“There were no options,” he said. “We have 21 pizza stores, we have 13 burger stores, so people needed this kind of healthy food here. That was a reason we thought about bringing Freshii to Prince Albert.”

The health-first focus also appealed to Sankhla’s background working in pharmacies.

“After working for eight years in a pharmacy, I knew we needed this kind of thing here,” he said.

“I’m a healthy guy. I have my own routine, I go to the gym every day, so it was important for me to invest. That’s where that thought came from.”

Thursday, the store, which has been open for a few weeks, celebrated its grand opening with a buy one, get one free deal. The store was busy, a theme of its early weeks in business.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Sankhla said. “The response we’re getting is really good. Our lunch rush is always crazy busy, and our supper is the same.”

This is the eighth Freshii to open in Saskatchewan. Three stores exist in both Regina and Saskatoon, while Moose Jaw also has a location. With the opening of the P.A. restaurant, the chain has now expanded to four locations across the province.

But the local Freshii has at least one thing different than the other Saskatchewan locations: a Shananigan’s kiosk. The kiosk sells the same desserts and coffee customers have grown to expect from the west hill location. For Sankhla, partnering with the local staple just made sense.

“We have breakfast here, and I wanted to have an opportunity for our guests to enjoy their breakfast with coffee,” he said.

“They don’t have to go to Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. I thought it would be great to work with Shananigans for their desserts and coffee.”

Another reason to go with the local, independent dealer was to support the community in which he lives, said Sankhla.

“They’re a well-known name in the city, and (chef and owner Jen Kindzerski) is a good friend of mine,” he said.

“I didn’t want to partner with a chain, because I wanted to support our local businesses too.”

Freshii is now open in the city’s Cornerstone district, in the southwest quadrant, by Party City and Save on Foods.