Neighbours celebrates grand opening

Ken Kellar

After a few months of running somewhat under the radar, Fort Frances’ newest eatery is ready for the big time.

Neighbours Modern Diner held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, with staff and town dignitaries on hand to make things official.

Neighbours owners Jamie Pryde and Myles Wilcott were joined at the special occasion by head chef Jol Smith, general manager Diana Angus, Fort Frances Community Chest volunteer Joelle Blanc-Paull, councillors Andrew Hallikas and Doug Judson, and Mayor June Caul, who handled the golden scissors.

The restaurant ran a number of specials throughout the day, and noted that 10 percent of all proceeds from their grand opening would go to Community Chest. By the end of the day, they had raised $537 for the organization.

Pryde said they’ve been very happy with how the restaurant has been received since its soft opening back in June.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he shared.

“Fantastic. We’re so pleased with the response and we have been improving every single day since day one.”

While every new business has its share of growing pains, Pryde noted that Neighbours’ were fairly small-scale.

“I think it’s just, we had a very new team when we opened,” he explained.

“So it was everybody kind of meshing and getting into their grooves and comfortable in the space.

“I think that we’re really at that point now where we’re functioning like we intended. Lunch times for food and everything are down, and everything’s coming out really fast and hot.

“The service is really great and amazing and people are really just coming into their own. We’re really happy with that.”

While Pryde and Wilcott are no strangers to business in Fort Frances, having purchased and revitalized the Bayview Motel, Pryde said the grand opening is still exciting.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said.

“I used to work at this restaurant in high school–when it was a Pizza Hut–and it was great to come back and kind of be here again and do something really great for the community, utilizing as many local suppliers as we can muster and providing Fort Frances and the tourists that come to town with another dining option.

“We have some great restaurants in town, and we’re among some really fantastic peers,” Pryde continued.

“We’re really thrilled to be here. The response has been amazing and we’re really thrilled to be working with Community Chest, because that is really in line with what we’re trying to do here in giving back something to the community as well.”

Pryde’s excitement extended to Mayor Caul and Coun. Hallikas, both of whom stopped into the restaurant for a bite to eat following the ribbon cutting.

“I’m just thrilled to see that two young men have come back to Fort Frances,” Mayor Caul said.

“When you come into Fort Frances and see how beautiful, for example, the Bayview Motel has been with a little bit of work, and this place, Neighbours, which has been closed down for quite a while.

“The quality of food, the quality of workers they have here, the welcome feeling you have when you come into the building,” she noted.

“It’s such a benefit to our community when we have young entrepreneurs coming home, bringing in outside eyes and making such an obvious contribution to our community, in such a short period of time,” Hallikas added.

“Both the Bayview and Neighbours here are both real assets to our community. The food and service here is amazing and I look forward to seeing what these guys are doing next.”

In terms of what comes next, Pryde said that the team is focusing on the upcoming school year.

“We have a brand new student dedicated menu with our app launching in a couple of weeks,” he shared.

“So they can order online, which is great. It’s great to provide the students with another healthy alternative to some other things that they’re used to.”

Neighbours Modern Diner is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day of the week.