FREDERICTON – It’s only been one-year and 10 months since Claudine’s Eatery re-branded and moved across the river to Fredericton’s south side, but co-owner Leonie Gillingham says it’s already paying off big time.
“Our sales are four times what they were in the previous location,” she said. “And we’ve doubled our staff.”
Claudine’s was on the north side for four years. Now at 138 Dundonald St., with a storefront facing Smythe St., it’s offering a much more modern vibe.
“We wanted people to feel when you walk into our little eatery that you were almost in Toronto, Quebec City, or walking down a street in Montreal,” Gillingham said. “We’re a really hip breakfast joint.”
I brunched there one Sunday in November. The restaurant was busy. It reminded me of walking into restaurants along Church Street or near the Kensington Market area in Toronto, with puns on chalkboards, tiled walls in the bar area, and black walls.
But then there’s the east coast-ness of it all: Shediac lobster on the menu, Acadian flags, the map of Atlantic Canada on a chalkboard – made by local artist Debbie Farris, a New Brunswick cookbook on display and a cozy vibe. I also had a warm chat with Gillingham’s mother and co-owner Claudine Cyr about her hometown as she served our meals.
Plus, the restaurant offers locally-made craft alcohol from producers like Grimross, Picaroons, and Devil’s Keep.
“We might look modern but we definitely stick to the east coast comfort food vibe and you’re going to feel like family when you’re here,” Gillingham said. “You still have the east coast feel, but it’s definitely a big city vibe with local hospitality.”
Here’s a look at some of the changes:
The mother-daughter pair opened the business in 2014 because the restaurant Cyr was working at was closing and she was going to be out of a job, along with a dozen other people.
Cyr and Gillingham decided to take over the location, change the name and a few items on the menu, and reopened as Claudine’s Eatery within a month.
“But it was very similar to the previous restaurant, same staff, same customers. So, we never really had an opportunity to make it our own until the move [to the new location],” Gillingham said. “At [the new] location, we were really able to do a menu and an atmosphere that we wanted…so this really shows who we are.”
The idea to move came up because the landlord of the old location was preparing to sell the building after Claudine’s lease finished at the end of 2018.
“It was really sad because we had invested a lot of money into bringing that location to life,” Gillingham said.
But Cyr wasn’t looking to start over. So they decided to move the business instead of shutting it down. Besides, just a few months earlier, a move by the restaurant to return money to a customer who accidentally over-tipped had increased business significantly.
“We took that as a sign that we needed to find another location and continue on with our business,” Gillingham said.
“It’s been a really good move. I think re-branding and changing our menu, and really creating an ambiance, that’s been the key to our success. And we have a really good staff and we stayed true to being locally-owned, locally- operated,” Gillingham added, saying she and Cyr are also hands-on owners.
Claudine’s Eatery offers East Coast comfort food like lobster crockpot poutine, eggs benedict and seafood lasagna. The meals are cooked fresh with local sources of ingredients, including home-made gravy and freshly cut fries. It also has specialty Caesars, mimosas and other beverages.
The menu is inspired by the mother-daughter duo’s upbringing. Gillingham is from Fredericton but Cyr grew up in Val-d’Amour, a community near Campbellton.
“She grew up, as well as me, eating a lot of lobster and seafood, and clams and shrimps. We’ve really translated that into our menu and that’s kind of where our inspiration came from. We’ve come up with our own recipes,” Gillingham said.
Now with 28 employees, the pair is focusing on fine-tuning services at the new location.
“Maybe down the road, there will be some room for growth. But at this time we just want to tighten up and perfect our current location,” Gillingham said.