Parkside café comes with own perks

Brian and Karen Levesque of the new Parkside Perk cafe. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The reopening of a large portion of Centennial Park is one of the primary reasons Brian and Karen Levesque see the potential of 410 Front St.

That’s where their new café, Parkside Perk, opened in March, specializing in sandwiches, homemade baked goods, fair trade coffee and a beautiful view of Sarnia Bay.

“When the fence comes down in a couple of weeks and events like the speedboat races are on, there’s no better place to be,” says Brian, a Sarnia native who has cooked professionally in London and Sarnia the past 16 years.

For several years, he actually worked with a former owner of 410 Front St. when Brian and Tammy Vickery operated the very successful Alternate Grounds there.

“I learned a lot from Brian (Vickery),” Levesque said. “I apprenticed under him while I took the cooking course at Lambton College and I learned to appreciate good, old fashioned home cooking.”

He also paid attention to the popularity of theme dinners at Alternate Grounds and intends to bring them back.

“I imagine a three or four course Mexican meal would sell out for us too,” Levesque said.

The Vickerys sold a few years ago and opened a new restaurant nearby at Sarnia Bay Marina.  A new owner took over at 410 Front, then put it back on the market. That’s when the Levesques decided to buy.

“It’s a fantastic location right across from the park and there are so many people who are regulars,” said Karen.  “The view is even better since the old (MacLean Centre) was torn down.”

Until last fall, the MacLean Centre obstructed the view of the river. Now coffee lovers can relax on the patio and enjoy the sunshine – once we get some – and watch boats on the river.

The Levesques intend to build a catering business, targeting the corporate sector with sandwich trays, dessert trays, meat platters and more.

“I know there’s lots of competition for catering but we’re keeping our price point low and our quality of our food high,” said Brian.

The Parkside Perk menu features a standard breakfast for $5.99; a BLT or breakfast burrito for $6.25; and omelettes for $8.49.

Lunch includes build-your-own sandwiches for $8.49, homemade soups for $5.25 and a healthy selection every day for$9.49. That might be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with vegetables or quinoa salad with fresh fruit. Reubens, Asiago chicken ranch wraps, grilled cheese and bacon, and gluten-free choices are also regular menu items.

Levesque is a client of the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation, where he had help writing a business plan and securing government funding to see him through most of his first year.

“It’s a really good program,” he said. “It takes some of the stress away from opening my own business.”

Parkside Perk is at 410 Front St. next to the Bicycle Shop. It is open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

HOW TO DO BUSINESS WITH GOVERNMENT

Does your business want to land a contract with the government, be it municipal, provincial or federal?  The local Chamber of Commerce is hosting a morning seminar Thursday, April 23 at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club that will examine how each level of government does its purchasing. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for non members. To register call the Chamber at 519-336-2400 or visit www.sarnialambtonchamber.com

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at 226-932-0985 or cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca