SAINT JOHN – The Tipsy Tomato’s number one goal as Millidgeville’s new neighborhood pub is to provide its residents with the best pizza, pub food and beer, as well as preserving and promoting the area’s local history.
Despite containing New Brunswick’s largest hospital, Dalhousie Medical New Brunswick, the University of New Brunswick, three call centres and many residents located in Millidgeville, there were few places to go out for a drink or get a pizza.
Tipsy Tomato owner Steve Walton spotted the need for this kind of pub and restaurant as he travelled through neighbourhoods of a similar size with his other business, Legends of Hockey, which organizes 60-to-70 events per year across North America, featuring retired hockey stars like Ray Bourque, Guy Lafleur and Wendell Clark.
“I’ve never been through a suburb of a town or city as big as Millidgeville that doesn’t have a pizzeria or a place to get a drink,” says Walton.
He curated a menu of cuisine he saw people order and enjoy over the course of his 25 years in the restaurant business, aided by the Social Bar Steakhouse’s Executive Chef Stephan Metayer. Walton estimates about 75 per cent of the food on the menu was not available for take-out or in sit-down restaurants in Millidgeville.
The pizzeria-pub had its soft opening on October 15 with a larger opening celebration planned in the next four-to-six weeks. For the moment, Tipsy Tomato only does pick-up orders for customers, but will introduce delivery service soon.
True to his entrepreneurial instincts, Walton saw a need in the community and pursued it. He waited patiently for six years to buy a space in the Millidge Avenue strip mall and partnering with Peter MacKinnon to open the Tipsy Tomato.
As a fellow sports enthusiast, active member of the Millidgeville community, he was a logical choice.
“Peter jumped right on the chance and was as excited as I was to bring something like this to Millidgeville,” Walton said.
The Tipsy Tomato is not only the hottest spot for a pizza and beer but a place to learn more about Millidgeville area of Saint John itself.
“Saint John historian Harold Wright and I poured through over 3,000 photos of Millidgeville, dating all the way back to the 1800’s. We ended up choosing an aerial photo from Brother’s Cove looking out from the old airport from the 1930’s, blown up by Flewwelling Press.”
Fifteen-to-20 other photographs were superimposed on the photograph along with a paraphrased narrative of the history of Millidgeville.
“The mural has really opened people’s eyes, who have said, ‘Wow, I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew that!’” said Walton.
Walton has further plans for The Tipsy Tomato, including tie-ins with Legends of Hockey.
“Once or twice a month, we’re going to have some of the biggest names playing in the National Hockey League through these doors, whether as a celebrity bartender, signing autographs or pregame meet-and-greets; there is going to be a lot of fun around here.”
Alongside with his graphics designer, Walton created Tipsy Tomato’s adorable, memorable logo.
“We knew we wanted the logo to be fun, hence the lettering and font. I also wanted the tomato to look like he had a few too many cocktails with a big pizza or nice meal,” Walton shares.
The pizzeria-pub has been very well received by the local area, says Walton.
“Everyone has been so nice and so welcoming,” he said. “The customers coming in over the last few days have been really, really thrilled and enthusiastic about having a place like this in the area. We’ve been overwhelmed with comments,” he said.
“We are basking in the glow and making sure we are ready for business every day.”