Second in a series. Read Peter Jackson's first story from Trinity here.
Joe’s Place is located on the waterfront of New Bonaventure, at the end of a long, winding road off the Bonavista Highway.
It looks like someone’s aging fishing shed, save for the letters protruding from the roof that spell “BAR.” A narrow wooden walkway leads past two outhouses with flush toilets to a screen door entrance near the back.
It’s unusually large for such a small town, but there’s a reason for it.
“It had to be that size because there’s a scene where everybody goes from the church to the bar and back to the church again to make it seem like the town is bigger,” says Mark Critch, one of the stars of the 2013 film “The Grand Seduction,” for which the structure was built.
Critch briefly doubted his star appeal when he revisited the spot the year after it opened as an actual bar in 2015.
“I don’t know if they still do it, but they kind of gave a little tour, explaining what ‘The Grand Seduction’ was, and talked about how actors like Gordon Pinsent, Brendan Gleeson and Mark Critch were in the film, and I’m there like, ‘Huh? Huh?’”
“I can’t even get recognized in what was kind of like a museum to me,” he says with a laugh. “Canadian show business is rough.”
But the bar does good business, primarily because it’s next door to Random Passage, a re-creation of an early settlement built for the 2002 television series based on the book by Bernice Morgan.
The bar, Random Passage and a large interpretation centre and tea room are all owned by Cape Random Trust, a non-profit organization established when the site was turned over to the community.
Connie Tobin is operations manager.
“We’ve seen numbers in the last month and a half that we haven’t seen in two or three years,” she says, taking a break while the tea room closes for the day.
“I’ve never been more proud to be a Newfoundlander than I am right now. Everybody’s staycationing. Everybody’s being cautious. Newfoundlanders are finding things out about their own province that they haven’t even known about before.” — Connie Tobin
Outside, visitors are still trickling up and down the dirt road that leads to the site.
“I’ve never been more proud to be a Newfoundlander than I am right now,” she says. “Everybody’s staycationing. Everybody’s being cautious. Newfoundlanders are finding things out about their own province that they haven’t even known about before.”
Even though it’s only seasonal work — and they had a late start because of the pandemic shutdown — Tobin says her staff are devoted to the cause.
“The staff that we have here are very passionate about their job and they’re very dedicated staff. Most of the staff that are working here now have been here for 15 years.”
Random Passage is only about 15 minutes from the picturesque tourist town of Trinity. Like dozens of other attractions and eateries that have sprung up in the area, it piggybacks on Trinity’s success as a historic and artistic centre.
Tobin says the Cape Random Trust hopes to groom a trail to resettlement communities in the area, and they’ll be part of an umbrella network called Hike Discovery. The jewel in the crown of that network is the celebrated Skerwink trail, a five-kilometre circular trek starting from Port Rexton that offers stunning views of sea stacks along the coastline. Hikers will often stop by the taproom at Port Rexton Brewing Company to cool down after their journey, and have a snack from Oh My Cheeses, an onsite food truck that sells a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches.
Among restaurants offering upscale menus in the area are the Twine Loft in Trinity and the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove.
Bonavista Social Club owners Katie and Shane Hayes decided not to open this season, but will offer picnic lunches Sept. 5 and 6 as part of an expanded Roots, Rants and Roars culinary festival that takes place every year in Elliston, which bills itself as the root cellar capital of the world.
At Aunt Sarah’s Chocolate shop in Trinity, a server says the company was struggling to keep up with demand in August because it produced less product during pandemic uncertainty. Among the shop’s more inventive offerings: Purity jam-jams dipped in chocolate.
Other businesses that took advantage of the late season include Rising Tide Theatre and Trinity Eco-Tours, which offers whale-watching and sea kayaking.
Glenn Johnson has seen the rise of Trinity as a tourist mecca over his 62 years living in nearby Trouty.
He bought Trinity Cabins in 1995. The popular accommodations on the outskirts of the town of Trinity were built in 1948.
Before that, Johnson ran a grocery business in his hometown, while his wife, Coreine, worked at the cabins under the previous owner.
“Trinity at that time, it had a lot of history, but it didn’t have that family unit draw. The Trinity Loop was what brought these family units into Trinity.” — Glenn Johnson
hen they sold the business in 2015, they took up work at the Twine Loft.
“I came back as a server in the dining room, and my wife came back as a breakfast cook,” Johnson says. “So it worked for us perfect.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever retire,” he adds. “I don’t think I’d be able to handle not doing anything.”
But Johnson notes one thing is missing from Trinity these days — something that made it a true family destination when it opened in 1985.
“Trinity at that time, it had a lot of history, but it didn’t have that family unit draw,” he says. “The Trinity Loop was what brought these family units into Trinity.”
Wednesday: Out of the Loop