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Favourite Howick eatery gets a reboot

The Valley is fortunate be home to many restaurants that can satisfy any craving. In February of last year, Howick lost one of its best known snack spots, Restaurant Chez Gary, due to closure. The little corner restaurant was a long-standing favourite of many, serving the classic comfort food of the Québécois casse-croûte. Recently, the restaurant was sold, and the new owners plan to reopen it and serve the traditional favourites, but with a bit of a twist.

The new Restaurant Gary’s team consists four co-owners: Christopher Craig, Jennifer Lamble, Jonathan Craig and Sophie Forget. (The Craig brothers grew up in the Chateauguay Valley.)

Christopher Craig explains that the team has been functioning extremely well together; “We all have our benefits (strengths) in certain areas. I have more experience in the kitchen, Jennifer has more experience on the managing side of things, my brother has a more of an understanding of renovations. We’re all working together, and it’s been running very smoothly.” He adds that “Sophie has a pork farm in Joliette, and what’s going to be fun with that is that we are hoping to actually use some of her products at Gary’s, so we’re keeping it really in the family.”

The purchase of the restaurant happened almost on a whim, Christopher Craig explains: “My wife (Jennifer) and I have been looking for a restaurant to have for a bit, and one day online I saw that Gary was selling and I thought ‘Wow that’d be great,’ and we kind of just went with it.”

Craig and Lamble met while working in a restaurant in Ottawa. Lamble reiterates that “It’s been a dream of ours for a long time. Even before we got together, we had a dream that one day we’d own a restaurant. When Gary’s came along, we were debating, then finally we said, ‘Well, there’s only one way to find out; we’ll jump in and see what happens’.”

 


The original restaurant (shown) served as a community gathering place for about four decades, and the new owners hope to expand on that tradition.  PHOTO Courtesy of Restaurant Gary’s

 

Of course, taking over a restaurant during a global pandemic presents a unique set of challenges. Luckily, most parts of the project have been doing well. Christopher Craig explains that hiring has been strange, since the entire interview process is done remotely over video and phone calls. Similarly, he laments that: “You don’t meet the suppliers anymore, it’s not as personal.” Hopefully all of that will change when things eventually get back to normal.

Gary’s has been a staple of the Valley community and beyond for approximately 40 years, so long-term customers understandably have expectations. Craig has received a lot of comments about this, and says, “There’s definitely some pressure. I get a lot of people coming up to me saying ‘You can’t change this, you can’t change that, this was really good.’ Someone used to drive out from super far away every weekend, just to get a Michigan. All the pressure is starting to add up.”

But the team is confident that they understand what the Gary’s brand means to the community. Lamble says that this is part of the appeal of running this restaurant: “One part of Gary’s is that it was very much a community thing. Farmers would go for lunch and I really enjoyed the idea of creating a little community hub like that again. There aren’t many places like that in Howick right now. So hopefully it’ll bring that community back.”

New logo for Restaurant Gary’s . Photo Courtesy of Restaurant Gary’s

 

The team wanted to honour original owner, Gary Barrington, and the community he created by keeping his name on the restaurant. Lamble emphasizes how important Gary’s contribution to the community has been, and why they have made this decision: “It was Chez Gary, now it’s going to be Restaurant Gary’s. It’s a tip of the hat to him. Regardless of what we would change the name to, I’m sure people would refer to it as Gary’s. So why mess with that? The community is going to call it Gary’s, so let’s let it be what it’s going to be.”

And so, what can we expect to see from the new Gary’s? Christopher Craig does say it will be “Very much a casse-croûte.” However, there will be some fun new twists: “What we want to do is run some specials, just to try new things and see how it goes. Maybe once a week or twice a month; we’re not really sure yet. It’s something I like to do, and I think it’s something the Valley could enjoy.”

This exciting new casse-croûte era will hopefully begin this spring; the tentative opening date for Restaurant Gary’s is set for April 17, though that is not official. The new eatery will be opening a takeout window, and providing outdoor picnic tables – both are features that will be especially useful during the pandemic, when ‘eating in’ is not always an option.

The new team said they would like to thank Gary Barrington and his staff for all the work they have put into this community. For years, Gary himself cooked and served customers, and he kept a consistent staff, which is often difficult to do in a restaurant. Christopher Craig says, “It’s amazing. He did a great thing for our community and for the food, so we’d really just like to say, ‘thank you’ to him and the staff.”

 

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3 Comments

Mike Murray 2021-03-28 at 14:59

I grew up in Howick and when I returned to visit my parents it was a tradition that we would always have Gary’s for dinner one night… Good luck with things and fabulous news you are keeping Gary’s name on the restaurant.

Reply
Violet Roberts 2021-03-26 at 18:53

Good luck on your new venture!! We lived just down the street from you. Our kids grew up around Gary’s. Live to see someone is going to revitalize it!! Wishing you all the best!!
Vi and Tony Roberts!!

Reply
ken Raithby 2021-03-26 at 16:16

congrats on your new venture when ever i come down to howick to visit my brother rick i always went to garys to say hi and enjoy his food maybe next visit i will treat the mayor.

Reply

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