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I met Ryan Smolkin, founder and CEO of Smoke’s Poutinerie, when his restaurant chain was nominated as an emerging cult brand for The Gathering Summit.

He agreed to an interview and I liked him instantly.

He was so unique. So smart. So charismatic. So committed. I told him he reminded me of Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage. He said I wasn’t the first person to tell him that.

Ryan was an ad guy and a marketer. He knew how to build brands and engage customers. He decided to apply his skills to build his own brand, and he became an entrepreneur. His work ethic was impressive. His energy was contagious.

I invited him to come speak at The Gathering during the Covid year when all presentations were done in front of cameras and an empty studio. He didn’t care. He hosted his own version of a rock concert and threw swag out to a room he imagined was full of people. I was smiling the whole time. I knew he was an Original, and I was so happy I got to experience him live and in person.

Ryan died this week. It was unexcepted, and I’m sure his family is still in disbelief.

I’m unsure what will become of the company he built because no one can do what he did. I hope this team finds a way to make it thrive. His company is the embodiment of his spirit, and everyone deserves a chance to enjoy it.

Rest in peace Ryan. I’m so glad I got to know you a bit.