"Here today gone tomorrow" is what you can say about many small businesses that never seem to stay afloat.
In my experience, by the time I realize an interesting shop has opened up, its doors are permanently closed. And what seem to be fading away from the Winnipeg landscape are the iconic Mom & Pop diners that are usually family operated and maintained. They are the type of places you were taken to as a kid. Fast forward the years and you hope you can bring your kids to share and create more happy memories.
The Odeon Drive-In movie theatre is gone. The Paddlewheel Restaurant is gone. The Wagon Wheel Lunch counter is gone. Kelekis Family Restaurant is gone.
Many people assume that independent establishments will always survive But the reality is that many struggle to compete against the mighty restaurant chains.
Families that run little neighbourhood restaurants have a lot at stake — their businesses are their livelihoods. Many sacrifice their personal lives to make their dreams a success.
I recently spoke with Perry, owner of The Southdale Family Restaurant. He said his customers are more than customers — they are family.
"It’s just a friendly atmosphere; everyone knows everyone!" Perry says, adding "the hardest part is when a loyal customer passes away, it’s very tough to handle."
The Southdale Family Restaurant has been in business for 25 years and Perry says that loyalty of staff and customers is what makes his work enjoyable.
"That and the food adds to the longevity," he says.
Perry’s longest-serving staff member is Donna, who has been there 20 years, and two senior cooks have been there for 14 and 11 years now. Perry’s wife works at the restaurant part-time, and his daughters come in and help out too.
When Perry took over five years ago, he strived to not make too many changes, other than tweaking a few things, such as re-upholstering booths for upkeep.
"We like to keep certain favourites on the menu," he says.
People need to value smaller restaurants. Remember that it’s never too late to find a place you can share with your children’s children.
Jasmine van Gerwen is a community correspondent for Southdale. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.