Just the Way You Are

Moving to a new standalone building, an iconic diner
takes aim at remaining exactly the same

Photo: Little Beaver owners Nicole and Marc St. Jacques

AFTER 40 YEARS at the corner of Glendon Drive and Komoka Road, the popular Little Beaver restaurant is moving—across the street.

Having shared its home with a gas station, convenience store and assorted other small businesses, the restaurant (littlebeaverrestaurant.com) will move to a standalone, 4,200-square-foot structure on the south side of Glendon Drive in October.

Other changes in store for the Beaver?

“We’ll have parking with lines,” says owner Marc St. Jacques. “That’s about it.”

Menu? Same.

Prices? Same.

Hours of operation? Same.

Bakery counter? Same, only bigger.

Employees? Same 50 or so, with some additional hires.

Seating configuration? 123, up from 102, with the same mixture of booths and tables. “In fact, we’re building the same bulkheads around the perimeter so it feels just like the original,” says St. Jacques.

“We’re building the same bulkheads around the perimeter
so it feels just like the original”
—Marc St. Jacques

No one needs to tell him how important it is to maintain the things people love about his restaurant. Morning, noon and night, the place is hopping with an eclectic mixture of customers who make Norm at Cheers look like a bit of an interloper.

“We’re not changing, just moving to a modern building.”

It became apparent in the last couple of years that the original building needed some significant upgrades and repairs. Marc considered a major renovation, but balked at the idea of closing for an extended period, throwing his staff out of work and inconveniencing his customers.

“There was a sign across the street about a development going in there,” he says. “So I called.”

That call went to John Lean, owner of Lupine Properties Ltd. “Marc called me, we met and quickly agreed to work together,” Lean says. In addition to the restaurant, Lupine will build 11,000 square feet of professional office space with plans for six tenants. One of the first, dentist Andy Shih, will open his practice by the end of the year.

Lean also signed an agreement to purchase the existing Little Beaver building. Next year, when the new development is complete, he will renovate it.

“We’ll keep the building in tact, but reinforce it and bring it up to modern standards. I’d like to keep the village commercial feeling, something like Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a big property, so there’s potential for further development, bringing some services to Komoka.”

Although it has been in its current home for 40 years, the restaurant moved frequently in its early days. It began as a burger joint in Grand Bend. “My wife’s father, Larry Welch, bought it and kept the Little Beaver name,” St. Jacques says. It operated in Hyde Park and Byron before settling in Komoka, where Larry and his wife Lynn operated it.

When Larry became ill in 2006, their daughter, Nicole, and her husband, Marc, got involved. She’s a hospital pharmacy technician. “I had never worked in a restaurant, so I started out washing dishes, learning the business,” St. Jacques recalls.

When Larry died in the summer of 2008, he and Nicole took over the business, with St. Jacques working there full-time, starting his days at 4 a.m.

The restaurant will close for a week in October during the transition.  Christopher Clark