By: Carol Gates
In 1993, GTs was a small cement block building on a beach that was known to not be regularly cleaned. It had sat empty and unwanted for a few years until a man named Mark came along and saw some potential to create a beach bar. As he was building, many people came along and laughed at him as he built the deck. “Who do you think will fill these seats?” they said. GTs was by no means an instant success. The first year, he did not get open until August and had to depend on his London location to carry him through the winter. In 1995 he hired Carol who had decided to work there just for one summer.For the next 14 years, Mark owned GTs and I (Carol) managed it. The municipality started the process of turning the beach around to the beautiful gem that it is today. In 2000 I married Andy who was also in the restaurant business, running The Oarhouse in London but we struggled to have children. In 2007 we welcomed our son Zach at age 40 and lo and behold welcomed Jonathan in 2008. I was just 2 months pregnant with Jonny when we realized that Mark wanted to sell GTs. Banks don’t like to finance restaurants and seasonal restaurants are even tougher. We cashed out every penny we’d ever saved, remortgaged our home and had family members willing to help us scrape together the money for the purchase. We had 2 babies and bought a business in the span of 22 months! In 2011 Andy quit his job so we could both be full time owner operators.We are often asked “What do you do in the winter?” The reality is we take around 6 weeks off over Christmas but it takes about 6 weeks to clean and close up each year and another month to get open again each season. January-March are spent booking bands, creating the menu, hiring new staff via Skype, updating the website and getting ready for the new season. We’ve become better over the years of adjusting to budgeting with 32 weeks a year of zero income.
Next season will mark our 10th as owners and 25th of GTs. We can’t imagine not owning GTs. Since taking over, our goal was to make GTs more of a restaurant than a bar and we feel we have accomplished this. It makes us so proud that every age group comes to enjoy our patio.
We also wanted to become a bigger part of the community. It was Carol who launched Canfest in 2010 and is currently starting a 2nd stint as chair of the Port Stanley BIA.
Like every business, it’s our customers who make us what we are. We are so very grateful for each and every one of them.