Small restaurant could mean big things for Water Street West
The Mallard Cottage crew is creating a new restaurant in the old west-end neighbourhood
Todd Perrin wants to create the kind of place where everybody knows your name.
The chef-owner of Mallard Cottage is busy building a new restaurant in the old west end of St. John's. WaterWest Kitchen and Meats will be located in the former Healy's Pharmacy building, at the intersection of Water Street, Leslie Street and Blackhead Road.
It's an area that blends commercial with residential, working class with young professionals and artists seeking affordable housing, and Perrin hopes his new business will be a hub for the whole neighbourhood.
"We're really focusing on the local neighbourhood market," said Perrin. "We get a lot of people who message us through social media, or just friends and people we know in the area, and everyone is expressing a lot of excitement, looking forward to having something in their neighbourhood. Something they can walk to."
Water Street West is already home to many attractions and interesting businesses. The antique and vintage shops have been a mainstay for years, perfect for poking around on a Saturday morning. There's a flower shop, a beauty bar, a children's clothing store. There's the Jag hotel, which is planning a huge expansion, with another hotel under construction nearby.
For cultural attractions, there's Victoria Park, the Newman Wine Vaults and the Railway Coastal Museum. But like much of downtown these days, there are also numerous vacant properties and empty storefronts.
Perrin wants WaterWest Kitchen and Meats to be an anchor business for the area, a place that will draw foot traffic to the street and serve as a gathering place for people who live nearby.
"We like that idea of a neighbourhood hub, the feel of a neighbourhood place." he said. "What we're trying to achieve here is something that you might see in a bigger centre, in some cool little neighbourhood in Montreal or Toronto, where everybody knows everybody and a lot of the clientele is regular."
In that sense, WaterWest Kitchen and Meats could have as big an impact on the west side of downtown as Perrin's other business, Mallard Cottage, has had on Quidi Vidi Village. But Perrin says the two restaurants will have very different vibes.
"Mallard Cottage started out as our vision for a cool little restaurant in a really cool little spot. It's evolved into a very busy, tourist driven business, in the summertime particularly. We have great local clientele that keeps us going year-round, but our business is primarily the summer tourists. The place is just crawling, as everybody knows."
"And we thought that we were interested in also creating a neighbourhood spot. A spot where locals could walk down over the street, come in and have a beer in the evening before they relax for the night. Or pop in and grab something to take home for dinner." said Perrin.
Perrin's other reason for starting a new business is solving a big problem at his existing business: a serious lack of space.
"The whole idea spawned from the fact that Mallard Cottage needs a prep area, outside the restaurant." said Perrin. "We end up turning away tons and tons of people because we physically don't have the time or the ability to serve them, because of the confines of the building we have."
Perrin isn't kidding. Located in a historic property in a historic neighbourhood, the kitchen at Mallard Cottage is tiny, relative to the huge number of hungry customers it serves.
"This was a spot where we can prep food for Mallard, expand what we do at Mallard, but at the same time create a business in itself." said Perrin.
At WaterWest Kitchen and Meats, the top floor will serve as a prep kitchen and bakery, where staff will prepare baked goods and prep dishes that will then be transported to Mallard.
Similarly, the ground floor will serve as a butcher shop and cutting room, where Mallard Cottage butcher Will Dray will cut and cure meats destined to be sold at both businesses. There will be a retail butcher counter as well.
For the public, the main attraction at WaterWest Kitchen and Meats will be the middle floor, which will feature a small restaurant (20 seats or so), a coffee bar and takeaway deli.
"The types of things that we sell here and that we'll offer here, salads, sandwiches, soups, pasta, pasta sauces, all that kind of stuff, you'll be able to buy it and take it home." said Perrin.
Right now the whole building is being heavily renovated, but Perrin is aiming to be open for business by late spring or early summer.