• Antonio Leal

Episode #6 The Restaurateur......An Interview with Sandra Lambie #tntweekly #restaurant #podcast

Antonio Leal 0:27


please check out my podcast on my website at TNT weekly comm you can find it also on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Google podcasts and Spotify. Sitting here in Williams restaurant in downtown Alison with the well known renowned restaurant author, Sandra Lambie. Sandra, how you doing?

Sandra Lambie 0:53

I'm very well Thank you.

Antonio Leal 0:55

Great. Great. Thanks for being on the show.

Sandra Lambie 0:57

Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Antonio Leal 0:59

Yeah. You're very Welcome, very welcome. For you know, the listeners that don't know you in this community, from what I understand you're very well known, you know, give us an update sort of on you know how you got here to the point of being a restaurant or in downtown sort of what was your journey here in this community?

Sandra Lambie 1:19

Well, I was born here in 1963 at Stevens Memorial Hospital, and my parents are William and Madeline Skelton. They have eight children. And I was the third youngest. She and I are the third youngest. And we just grew up on William Street. So William William I'm grandsons William so we are in Williams.

Antonio Leal 1:45

Oh, there you go. And he's in for the restaurant.

Sandra Lambie 1:48

Yeah. Awesome. And so we grew up here and I went to Banting Memorial. I went to Georgian College, I took resort and hotel operation. I worked out the route of winds for 20 years, oh, I heard that.

Antonio Leal 2:02

Yeah, Lisa was telling me with Anna, was it? No,

Sandra Lambie 2:06

no, it was with the dedeaux family. He just had it for 40 years. Okay, so I booked with my boss and network with Dave Weber. He's very well known bartender way back then. And it was like an iconic place that everybody wants to think we were being packed every single weekend lineups of the dorm. So then they sold it to kitten Anna and then we were not be hired. I was too old.

Antonio Leal 2:35

Oh, so then you look amazing.

Sandra Lambie 2:40

And so uh, my boyfriend and I at the time but CW coops, so 10 years ago. And so I didn't really know anything about owning a restaurant. I managed a restaurant and so that was a real learning curve because I thought, Oh, you know, on the restaurant be open from three to nine and Have the rest of my life. But no, I don't work out that way. I've worked up to 100 hours a week. cooped up. So he my boyfriend Eric left after four years, and then I was alone there for almost two years. And that's when I was working all the hours until I found something that was able to help me. Other than my staff. It was more kitchen work kitchen stuff, it's very hard to find. And then four years ago, I changed the name from CW cube to the coop. And it just gave new energy to the whole place. It was like opening a new restaurant. And then January, I redecorated and just did a little county 20 recently,yeah. 2020 like new lighting, new tables, new things and the whole places.Yes, yes.kind of funky. They have bowling alley tabletop bowling alley for tabletops and all my lighting I get localmoko homes.And so, when I decided to open this restaurant, it was like, I was just doing my paperwork at. Okay, we're in the restaurant. It's all good. I was doing my paperwork. And my landlord wanted me to sign a lease. And I didn't want to sign a lease because the air conditioning was it's always been funky. It's never enough, right? It's super hot in there. And so I thought, well, I'm just gonna buy a building. I'm just gonna buy a ton of building. And so then I called my real estate agent, and I said, I want to buy the tunnel. And then she got back to me and said, Oh, he's changed his mind. And so then I called Jimmy Bowen myself and I said, I want to buy a building. And he said, how much you know, you find the finance Seeing and I will sell it to you. So that was on a long weekend. The August long weekend and I got the financing within three days and I said I called him and I said I have to financing. So it closed from the long weekend and obviously, long weekend timber. So it took 30 days to close it which was unheard of in commercial because we're gonna say Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And then I start to get drawings and architects and permits. So I got my permits after from September for when I own took possession and then till May 17 took me to get my permits. But in March of 2019, I started the rentals like downstairs and everything soand either and I heard, like I knew that I heard in town that the owner of CW purchased this, this building downtown. And I heard something on, you know, sort of rooftop presence. See who was moving over here. I was moving over here. I was gonna move coops to here. Yes. And then I thought like three, four hours after me. So I said, I want to sign the lease and I could sell the business. Yeah. And they said, No, they want to put apartments up top. So that's fine. And then I thought, well, why am I Why am I closing this business? This is nuts. Yeah. on my laptop and everything, right? Yeah. So I need to keep coops and so then I thought, well, I'm going to open this. So I'm going to open a casual fine dining because Allison doesn't really have one because Easter was seven months.

Antonio Leal 6:45

That was your vision for this. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome.

Sandra Lambie 6:48

So then, from May until September, we did the Renault. And honestly, God, that was the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life. It's not fun. No, it was worse.

Antonio Leal 7:00

Are you acting as the GCMG?

Sandra Lambie 7:02

Oh yeah. So welcome new asked for you. So that was a nightmare. Literally, like we had to take up the bait. We already had the plumbing and everything in the basement we had the town came in and said you can't do this you have to lower the floor because the each back, we had to take out everything that we had already done. Take basement down foot, replace the floor. And then it was just piecing all together like what do I know? I don't know. Like, you have to have this person. This person is first but I had great contractors. So I had people who basically told me what to do.Yeah, I understood. Yeah. And so I had two guys that were here initially for Taro. And then I got the everybody else did finish work.

Antonio Leal 7:52

Yeah. So I like babysitting. That, you know, with the trades. Yeah. Especially with the trade. So you know, I found you know if there's any Not good leadership and existing relationships with trades, they seem to come in and, and blame the trade that just left. They all do that. Ah, oh, I was gonna do this and but the drawing said yes, but the guy who left look what he did, and I can't do the work now and I'm gonna have to charge you more and so on and so forth.

Sandra Lambie 8:20

Right, exactly. Yeah, it gets really really nerve racking. So interesting journey that way into opening now. Here you go. You've got the coops model, rolling into 2020 with Williams, getting some traction. And all of a sudden cobit coding starts happening. Now there was a period of time where I think my you know, myself like everyone. It will fly over. Right? Yeah, it's just a very temporary right. But it wasn't temporary. We know, right. We've had to evolve We're sort of your steps in mindset. And, you know, I listen, I from time to time, you get up in the morning, and I don't want to get up going, I don't know what tomorrow is going to be. Yeah, this bit of anxiety of the unknown of tomorrow and I try to focus on today because that's all I got great family, my wife and child and daughters and, and great partners, etc. I keep it positive. But there are days I go, man Oh, man, I just I just want to wander the streets and hang it up. I don't know. Right? It's just like every day.

Antonio Leal 9:39

Yeah. So I can imagine what you're going through Sandra or what you went through, you know, the acquisition of this building. The the build up of your vision for Williams, you're rolling along working 150 hours a week. All of a sudden, Corbett comes in and, you know, how did you keep it together? Maybe Tell us what you had to go through mentally, physically, while you saw the shutdown occurring and then thinking in your mind, my staff, my inventory, my my rent my bills, how, you know, you just amaze me, how did you keep it together?

Lots of wine. I know.

Sandra Lambie 10:26

A lot of self talk really. So I don't know where I get my motivation from because honest to god, there's many days that I've not wanting to do this that I wanted to say. Just say, I want to say can we say that word? Yeah. Yeah, okay, I know I can. I'm gonna close my doors. I'm going to take the summer off. I'm gonna do this do that but I can't because I have to stay relevant. And I have to keep my staff employed because I have to have staff When I when we're not reopen, yeah. And so the way I looked at it also was when you're on the airplane, the oxygen mask comes down. You take a first and you help everybody else. So I have to take care of coops and Williams, fundamentally, to make sure that we're still standing here, after everything's said and done. And so I applied for all the corporate help I got the two loans, I have 75% to pay myself. If I didn't have 75% here at Williams, we wouldn't be here because our sales are down 9%. Over there, we're down 50%. And so basically going into this in March half my bank accounts at that time because they're coming out of winter. Yeah. Whereas my HST, so I still owe my HST and then I am $400,000 in debt here. Which I had to assume myself so I have to pay that off but to get up every day just go like I ride my I can go out in the countryside ride my bike for two hours and then I think and that's like that's where I get what am I going to do next? What am I going to do next? How am I going to do this? And it bounce everything off my twin sister

Antonio Leal 12:24

yeah you're quite a warrior. It's really amazing and and you know how strong I would imagine coops probably had that but I guess as COVID and you realized the shutdown, obviously I would think in your in being in the restaurant business. The first thing that you would try to trigger or monopolize on to the best of your ability is takeout. Yep. You already had I would imagine some element of takeout with your dad's business right

Sandra Lambie 12:54

but to changing to a from a sit down restaurant to a takeout restaurant. Definitely 100% It took us probably six weeks like and the support from the community was tremendous. Our phones never stopped ringing. It was overwhelming. And so then just to put food into packages and put them in bags alone, when we have to we announce on Friday nights we have a packager, a beggar and a packager. Just to do that you don't think of those things you don't do that, like my kitchen counter is eight feet long. So that's where we prep the food packaged food in our kitchens tiny, like you're sitting in what our kitchen is. And so that was a lot gives you a whole probably a whole more respect for for a fast food roll out franchise. Yeah, like, like how they have to have their operations in their kitchen and rolfing. Yeah, it's a totally different system, totally different system.

Antonio Leal 13:58

With that in check and understanding that You know what what brought you to this beautiful concept that you have going on now this market this market feeling oh wow bringing local foods vegetables meats you know it's got a beautiful health conscious country feel of of support in your community it's almost I mean we have so much of it here it's it's it's amazing how you act yeah it's amazing how you've tapped into that. And here you are converted Williams the fine dining into a market and you're getting a lot of traction and but the concept is just amazing. Everything from artifacts and crafts, from locals. It's really beautiful what you put together what that happened on one of these bike rides

Sandra Lambie 14:49

or that happened well, I've always been a local, I've always wanted local I will. I'll go to a mall to look at for something and I'm just going to go somewhere analysis Because it's, as I get older, I have less patience to walk into a department store. I just need. I need four items to choose from. And so you find it down here. So when we built what I built, this Williams, everything in here is from local. Yeah, local. I had local contractors, everything was local, like the countertops. The bar was custom built by one of our local carpenters, and he did it for free for me. And then he left town to retire.

Antonio Leal 15:35

Wow. Well, he says a lot about you says a lot about you, Sam says a lot about you. It says a lot.

Sandra Lambie 15:42

So everything in here like Mako Holmes did the lights. They did the chairs I all the tables are made out of barnboard from the coop around the walls. And so I had a local customer he built all the tables. So I don't know it's ingrained And I think I think that our vision for the future after COVID is that our world is smaller. And we see that in the news all the time where all our supplies are made in China overseas, and we don't have any. So now everybody in Canada is turned around to manufacture all these other supplies. And so it has to be that in this community, you have to support everybody who does something, because if you don't, the community is going to be gone. No, totally.

Antonio Leal 16:32

And you know what, with what you've done here, you know, and I think you know, and before coming in to speak with you and you just opened up my eyes on several areas of of services in town, but it's almost like when I look at, you know, the large brick and mortars upstairs and food basics on, you know, that I always think to myself that that's a capitalistic view. on how to get food. Right? Right. It's not really where we came from as, as humans and where we did our food, I mean, your concept of going to the local and and bringing that together with fresh foods in support of that community. You know, I think if that's represented even at a larger scale could almost really be a good source for this community on fresh foods and everything else they meet and supporting local businesses. Now, I do understand that, you know, the desires in the big boys, they have the scale and they get their pricing in check. But it's almost in our carry view of where we do get our food when it is Yeah, when you can bring it all together in a community like we have a new tech that has everything around it, right with its suppliers. So do you see post COVID Continuing to include this this this this market model. Is this a passion of yours or do you feel? Obviously we don't know what's going yeah, the outcome is going to be but do you see your restaurant and this market working in parallel with each other? No,

Sandra Lambie 18:18

I think we're going to Well, this area here is now our baking area. So we're just going to flip everything from the front to the back and then have the seating there for it's not going to be I think we're probably going to change the concept a bit because we bought pizza ovens and we do pizza. We, it took us a while to find out what to do here for takeout what people really wanted and I don't think it was going to be a tenderloin for $40 or rocket lamb. I don't think it was going to be that. So we started pizzas and then we haven't lunch menu now and then we're going to develop the patio menu but When we reopen, it's not going to catch up fine dining. I don't think it's going to be. It's still going to have the same space. Of course, it's still going to be beautiful. Yeah. But it's going to be more affordable for people because I think incomes aren't going to be able to sustain a lot of disposable income for eating out.

Antonio Leal 19:19

Yeah, I think it's definitely the employment picture change out there. And you know, the town's laid off a lot. It's just, it's happening everywhere. Yeah. That's the fan in the background. Okay, just a little fan that came on. So when you hear that in the background, that's what it is. I'll try to edit that out during my editing. With the announcement now with the provincial with our patios opening up, I mean, a bit of sparkle in your eye with that. I can see. Can you tell our listeners sort of the patio scenario for both coops and Williamson, what's your planning?

Sandra Lambie 20:01

Well, coop's doesn't have a patio and I was actually thinking about putting tables outside but I don't know if it's the insurance thing so if I have to get extra insurance or if I have to inactive permission from my landlord there but here at Williams we have enough seating for Tony for me, the proper social distancing. And then I was thinking about doing the front with the town. I don't think I don't know what I'm going to do there because I still don't know what my insurance Yeah,

Antonio Leal 20:31

well, I saw your you you showed your back, everybody she's got a beautiful layout in the back of the building. I did not even know existed. concrete pad slab to support how many seating back 2424 in the back obviously. She's going to be focused on the distancing aspect of of who you can have and you'd mentioned a bit earlier before we started, you know, it might be appointment only or book Yeah, reservation. Yeah. Is that how You're planning

Sandra Lambie 21:00

I think so. And it would be timed. Because we have to get people in and out in and out in and out to make as much money as possible. Yeah. Like, on off peak times it might be.

Antonio Leal 21:16

You're gonna have, you're gonna have a tough time. Yeah, my office seat.

Sandra Lambie 21:21

Open on a Sunday afternoon with your patio, sir. I know. You're gonna give me a time limit. Yeah, I know. But I understand like, on our dinner times off eat dinner times, like say, between two and five. sit out there. And as long as you play by but I didn't. I didn't think of that your turnover.

Antonio Leal 21:39

You know, you're, you're gonna have to watch your seating capacity. Yeah. And at the same time, you have to turn over. Yeah, man. Oh, man. Oh, man. You You have challenges everywhere you turn.Yeah. And so, people I think you're gonna understand that.

Sandra Lambie 21:56

Yeah. But say if you're here at eight, you have the last CD For 830 and then you can stay Yeah, right right to the end. Yeah, no, I Man, what a challenge. You're so right on that. But it was like that all the time in here because we're, we only had 40 seats, right? And so on a Friday night to get people in and out in and out in and out we would reserve for an hour and a half. Maybe we need longer, like two hours, we would give him two hours but at the same time there was reservation for reservation to reservation at the reservation and people lingering and then the next seating came in. It was a little bit difficult to say, yeah, hey, it's time to go or because you don't want to be rude. Yeah, but at the same time you need to pay the bills. Yeah, you have

Antonio Leal 22:41

to turn it over. Yeah, just brings me in thought on this time and booking thing and in what the gyms are going to do, like I'm a member over a good life, man. And I'm really looking forward to get back to the gym and I'm getting notices on you know how they're going to structure the reopening and its meaning towards You know, booking and an hour at Yeah, and I am limited to I think an hour because they were saying that they're going to have sort of one hourly, clean sweeps by their staff. And I'm saying to myself is that only give me an hour to work out or so all of a sudden, here's a 24 seven model that I joined because it was 24. Seven, right? And I'm sure everybody's thinking the same thing. And sometimes it's very hard to book in advance. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow, some days and how do you feel like what if you don't want to go work out? Exactly. And what and what are they going to do if you want to go at four in the morning? You know, at 430 in the morning, is it a Saturday morning? Well, the no but isn't staffed. I mean, or Exactly. So I think that that model to everybody's going to have to adapt to everything that's going on. I just moved my office into my laundry room, and I'm putting it in the basement. So yeah, I think I was lucky to find I. I just thought I thought the the period would not be As long so I bought a kettlebell one and I said okay I'll use the kettlebell and then I knew that okay, this is going to be a long time and then like a week later there was no kettlebells anywhere in the world. Like all gone kettlebells dumbbells anything with fitness equipment for the home, it was gone. It was nowhere to be found. Right. So I think I might do the same as well. Some Bowflex in the basement Yes. Is I am send a big a has a market every Saturday. Yeah, and everything and have they been in touch with you or supportive in the sense of your market? scenario and

Sandra Lambie 22:48

not really No, no. I don't know if I was supposed to be in touch with them or not. I'm just I just go through like we just had to As soon as I heard the farmers market was going to be open and that I was really excited about that, because I'm just across the road and then that would bring lots of people down here but but I think that what a cool idea would be is to close down the street from Paris to prepare us to the market and have all the merchants outside and then you have enough people going back and forth with just social distancing and and mingling and mingling and everybody can partake. Yeah, I don't know if that would ever happen. I don't

Antonio Leal 25:34

think I think it'd be a great idea. We got to do something with potato fest gone. Yeah.

Sandra Lambie 25:40

Just to have something to do every morning, like the vibe down here when we're open and my and my sister works the barbecue and then we have coffee, pouring and people are grabbing sandwiches and sitting on the park bench, but it's cool. Yeah, it's getting the vibe go. Yeah. And people are chatting And they haven't seen anybody and life is back. Yeah. And you feel like you're alive. It's like, because we all know why we're doing this for COVID. But at the same time it strips away any joy that you've had in life. Yeah. And that's the whole thing about having restaurants is that you bring joy to people, they're there for celebration, friends and family and, and to tell stories, and that's what it's all about. Like it's not an enjoy food.

Antonio Leal 26:31

Yeah. And it's a love and a passion of food. Right, you know? Yeah. With your stripe. I love that sweet theory, though, that, in fact, today, I was, I was thinking of sort of a party Fest, that I hope someone would come to some sort of idea, but maybe maybe we should try and put it together. Right? What I was envisioning would be like, and, you know, 100 acres somewhere 50 acres. Right. And you know, how you have the crop circles, right? So, okay, hundred years, okay, you can have 100 acres. Okay, can we sell boots? Yes, we can sell boots. All right. Can we sell food? Yes, we can. So we organize that in a distance manner, right? crop circles for no more than 10 people at a time in a crop circle and a band. Right at the end of it.

Sandra Lambie 27:21

Right. I'm already thinking about that. That's a good way it goes to 50 people.

Antonio Leal 27:25

Yeah, no, I know how the avocado oil crop circles, okay. And, you know, as they're doing in parks, and you know, they put the circles down, oh, you can only stay within here and they're two meters apart. So I think this town would be ready for something like that. Right?

Sandra Lambie 27:41

I just thought they reduced to six feet to three feet. Okay. Some countries have done that.

Antonio Leal 27:45

Yeah. But you know, I think outside. But still, like we were saying earlier who knows anything like you don't know, changes every day. It's news, this news that and you know, I love that you brought up Fact on nutrition we were talking about nutrition you're in the food industry, bringing wonderful healthy foods and for the for the community and the public but, you know, nobody's talking about nutrition, etc. nobody's talking about vitamin deficiencies and supplementation, nobody's talking about them right on fresh food, eating fresh fruits and deliver him in a bad way. Right? Yeah. So Wonderful. Well, you know, Sandra, we're, we're almost at a wrap here. It's, it's gotten to know you quite a bit. I mean, so much years of history and hard work here. I feel like I feel so much closer to you. Now. It's just so No, it's just so great. It's so wonderful. And I just wish you you know, you and and all restauranteurs and everybody in this community that that have had this challenges that, you know, give Sandra a call here because it's not over, wake up, evolve. Be the best that you can be. And, you know, with energy like you have envisioned, like you have. There are reasons to get up and continue. Right, right. Obviously surrounded by love and family and all those we care about. Yeah. But do you have any words for the listeners out here? Oh, well just say something I know I know that you you know your your so thing I see your messages on on Facebook, you're so thankful You're so you're so humble. You're so grateful. But if you get me talking to cry, Oh, okay, well, I know that I can tell from just posting this interview with you. The way it's circulated because no one knows me for shit. Right, you know, right. But the way it's circulated around you have an amazing amount of followers and a lot of respect. But one of the messages I get through social media on messenger and Instagram and everything and how people really appreciate what we're doing here and offering the groceries that we have in groups and the boxes of meat, boxes of vegetables and even doing down here.

Sandra Lambie 30:18

Our customers really, really appreciate it and they have shown that appreciation through supporting us. Yeah, and without them. Yeah, like where would we be? Yeah. Just like every everybody else.

Antonio Leal 30:32

When do you expect your patio opening up here? Monday, you're going to be reading Monday. Awesome. Awesome. Okay, everybody, stay tuned. Stay tuned, Sandy, we'll have it open on Monday, Ed Williams and you're not certain about coops yet right on I don't.

Unknown Speaker 30:51

I don't know I have to talk to the landlord and check the liability scenario on everything. And well, I know you'll be busy there. If you're able to work something out. You know thank you for for being on the podcast and sharing your story and support Sandra and Williams and coops. I mean, this market concept is amazing bringing the community together. And, you know, she'll be able to smile and serve via cold beer. You know very soon and well over an hour

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