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This article was published 30/7/2019 (339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Less than two years after selling the Salisbury House restaurant chain, Earl Barish is buying it back again.
Barish, who’s turning 76 in August, owned and ran the iconic Winnipeg chain famous for the "Nip" hamburger, for close to 12 years. He nursed it back to health from the brink of receivership, then sold it in December 2017 as a successful and profitable enterprise to Winnipeg restaurateur Noel Bernier.
The re-do of the 2017 deal was the result of both sides satisfying the new realities of each other’s lives.
Barish fell ill shortly after the sale -- but after a successful surgery, he is in fine health and found he missed the business.
Meanwhile, circumstances conspired against Bernier -- including the recent closure of his second Hermanos location and the Sherbrook Street Deli -- such that he now wants to focus all his attention on his original Hermanos location on Bannatyne Street.
This time, the change of ownership is a simple re-purchase by Barish of Bernier’s shares at essentially the same valuation that was agreed to in 2017.
New partners that were put in place then -- including four senior managers, the Métis Economic Development Fund and Winnipeg lawyer and investor David Filmon -- all remain as shareholders.
Brad Kramble, the long-time operations vice-president is now president and CEO of the business.
"I am the chairman of the board. You know, I have been kicked upstairs," Barish said.
Both he and Bernier made it clear that the change in ownership has nothing to do with any negative issues or challenges at Salisbury House.
"Sals is doing very well. Let me be clear about that," Barish said. "This is not a story about the previous owner buying back the business to shore up the company. That is not what this is about at all."
"Sals is doing very well. Let me be clear about that. This is not a story about the previous owner buying back the business to shore up the company. That is not what this is about at all." –Earl Barish
In fact, while Barish is paying the same (undisclosed) price that he sold it for in 2017, he’s buying back a business that has expanded in the last 19 and a half months. Most significantly, the 15 location chain has a brand new restaurant in the East Exchange, its first downtown location since the 88-year-old chain’s early days.
As a trade off, however, Sals also no longer has a presence at IGF Field. (Barish said he hopes that is just temporary phenomenon.)
Bernier, who has had a whirlwind 10 years shaking things up in the Winnipeg restaurant scene, said, "I am very grateful for the opportunity and my time at Salisbury House and for the entire organization."
Bernier's exit from Sals comes almost exactly 10 years since he first opened Hermanos. He went on to co-found several restaurants since then and continues to hold a meaningful stake in a few, including Carnaval Brazilian BBQ, Corrientes Pizzeria and Prairie 360.
"Previous to that big leap I had a 20 year career in the energy and agricultural sectors and was a complete newbie to the restaurant business," he said.
"I have been extremely grateful for the Winnipeg restaurant customers for supporting the restaurant projects I was involved with over that time. The risk and work of restaurant business has taken its toll both on my health and personal life over that time and I look forward to using this opportunity to take some time away and to chart new paths in my career."
"The risk and work of restaurant business has taken its toll both on my health and personal life over that time and I look forward to using this opportunity to take some time away and to chart new paths in my career.” –Noel Bernier
Barish has been involved in businesses since he was 15 years old including owning Dickie Dee Ice Cream and building it into an unlikely national business selling ice cream from custom-designed bicycles when he sold it in 1992.
He said he understands the perception that what he’s doing is contrary to what most 76 year-olds would do.
"Somebody said they thought I had an operation on my head not my heart," he said jokingly. "When most people sell a business they leave and they don’t want to be involved anymore."
But he said he’s still vibrant and "with it" and he always loved Salisbury House and believes it’s a great company.
"The opportunity came along. Noel wanted to concentrate on Hermanos -- the most successful of a variety of restaurants that he was involved in," Barish said.
"The rest of the partners are all on board... and frankly I’m hoping to be around for 100th anniversary of Sals (in 2031). That would be the cat’s meow if I could be around for that."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
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