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In the more than 18 years she’s cooked at the G&E Restaurant in Unionvale, Sandy MacCollum could not recall on a shift as busy as the one she put in Thursday.
It was clear to staff and owners that the word was well out there that this was the restaurant’s final weekend in business. The doors closed yesterday, Oct. 6.
As they were reflecting on the restaurant’s nearly 34 years in operation they were bracing themselves for three more exceptionally busy days of cooking and serving.
“End of an era,” MacCollum said, stating there have been so many highlights that she can’t narrow it down to one.
Darlene Sweet who has been waiting tables and helping in the kitchen for 29 years, says the customers and her work family have been the highlight and what she will miss the most.
Sandy's daughter Selena MacCollum has been working there part-time.
“Some people, I can tell you their order before they walk through the door,”MacCollum acknowledged.
There were also many regulars who had their favourite tables in the 120-seat dining room. And so do the staff, Table 20.
Gary and Ellen (G&E) Johnson purchased the former Pat’s Take-out in 1986. It had seating for about 15. That was the way the restaurant remained for three years, although under its new name. It grew to its current size in 1989 and has always maintained a take-out section.
After being on the market for nearly 10 years, the restaurant recently sold. The new owners take possession this week and their plans don’t include food service.
The G & E maintained business as usual until Sunday.
“They were great staff,” Ellen said of the business’s two long-term employees.
“The most efficient staff you could look for,” she said.
“Don’t get them crying,” said Gary, aware closing down the business is an emotional time for staff and owners, and for their customers.
“It’s nice to come and meet people,” he said in describing the best part about operating a restaurant. “It’s a place I can come to two or three hours a day.”
He’s sure his staff will not be out of work for long as their work ethic is well-known to all of the restaurant’s loyal customers.
“They’ve had a busy two weeks ever since word got out it was selling,” Gary said.
While especially grateful for the many years MacCollum and Sweet dedicated to the restaurant, he extended thanks to the approximately 30 people who have worked there since 1986.
The G&E Restaurant was featured on Wayne Ronstadt’s show, On the Road Again, in the 1990s as home of Fries with the Works, with previous owner Pat Pineau credited with creating what remains one of the G&E’s most popular dishes.
The restaurant’s sign identifies the G & E as “Home of Fries with the Works” but owners and staff don’t actively refer to it as the dish’s origin anymore because, after the show aired, at least five other establishments or cooks have suggested they created the dish.
The dish’s origin aside, Gary Johnson is proud of how the dish has retained its popularity in Unionvale, and that its appeal has spread right across the province.
“We will miss all the friends, and customers we made friends with,” said Gary. “We want to thank everybody very much.”
He was the main cook until MacCollum arrived on the scene. He continued to do the book work, the running and the morning prep work.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to miss it. We’re going to miss our customers, and we had good, loyal, loyal customers” said Ellen.