The first year of a restaurant’s life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Even the most well-planned, meticulous operation hits unforeseen snags. Systems need to get reworked on the fly. Owners are proud parents, fulfilled and getting very little sleep.
Corner Peach opened in January of 2019 to much anticipation. The cozy space is helmed by Caroline Murphy and Emma Campbell, friends since high school, and both well-known in the Ottawa restaurant community.
The search for the spot that would become Corner Peach lasted almost two years. The pair were ready to sign a lease in Vanier, but kept passing a tiny spot on Somerset, then housing the Kaashi Food Centre.
“Turns out it was the perfect space all along.”
“We drove by again one day, and it was available,” says Campbell.
“We didn’t even know it had a kitchen, we thought we’d have to put one in,” adds Murphy. “Turns out it was the perfect space all along.”
They set to work transforming the space into a warm, bright, and inviting space. The restaurant opened to great acclaim and positive reviews. Both the neighbourhood and Ottawa’s tight-knit restaurant community became instant fans. This can be attributed not only to the great food, drink, and service, but to the atmosphere that Campbell and Murphy curated.
“We keep it honest. We do what we love. Cook the food we want to eat, and pour the wines we want to drink,” they both say.
Caroline helms the kitchen, making good use of her experiences at the Manx, Black Cat Bistro, and Town. Emma curates the wine list and drink menus and manages the floor, as she did at Supply and Demand.
Campbell and Murphy sought to make Corner Peach not only a place that they love and believe in, but that others would, too. By treating their staff, guests, and neighbours well, they’ve garnered goodwill from their communities.
“We have lots of friends in Ottawa, and many of them are in the industry. We’ve been lucky enough to learn from great mentors, and we want to enforce those principles here: Treating our staff well, making sure they’re as well taken care of as our guests, that’s super important to us,” says Campbell.
“The whole industry benefits from people being well taken care of,” continues Murphy. “We hired good people who love what they do, so we work hard to give them an environment to shine in.”
“For the first two weeks, we were honestly just in denial… By the time the third week rolled around, we knew we had to do something.”
How to best take care of their staff was foremost on their minds when news of the COVID-19 lockdown broke.
“For the first two weeks, we were honestly just in denial,” they agree. “By the time the third week rolled around, we knew we had to do something.”
Takeout wasn’t in the cards. “We’re limited by the physical space we have, and we weren’t willing to put anyone at risk,” says Murphy.
Instead, they came up with other ideas to help their community through a difficult time. They made a series of videos showing how to creatively cook with what’s in your pantry. Once restaurants got the go-ahead to sell liquor, they jumped into action. In addition to their online bottle shop, they created a small menu of takeaway snacks, with special attention to their house sourdough.
“Those first few weeks were crazy, there were shortages of yeast and flour everywhere. People loved the sourdough so much, we started to put extra starter outside to give away. Within three days there were lineups down the street. We made a step-by-step sourdough video on our Instagram story. It brought people together through bread,” both say.
That led to selling sourdough kits with pre-measured flour and starter. Within the first week, they sold over 150 of them. “We’re really proud of what we did, both in bringing the community a little joy and what it’s letting us do for our staff,” Campbell says, referencing the fact that all profits from bread and wine sales in the first month have been put into a fund to help their staff recover financially once CERB runs out.
The next step was a “casse-croute” menu of burgers, fries, poutine, and ice cream, available for pick-up. “We thought about what we love to eat in the summertime, on the way to the cottage,” says Murphy. “We just want to provide people with some comforting memories, through food.” The menu has proven a huge success and allowed them to bring back one other staff member to help with prep, while staying safe.
This never-say-die attitude drives the Peach’s next big transformation. Campbell and Murphy recently announced that Corner Peach will become a Corner Store, selling prepared meals, bread, wine and their popular casse-croute menu. They’ll also carry high-quality food items from local producers like Top Shelf Preserves, Little Victories, and Acorn Creek Farm, and beers from Matron and Dominion City.
“You either give up, or you try everything you can. We’re definitely not ready to give up.”
“We’re excited about this new opportunity,” says Campbell. “Ottawa has such great producers; we’re honoured to be able to showcase them this way.”
“You either give up, or you try everything you can. We’re definitely not ready to give up,” Murphy continues. “We’ve wanted this for so long, it’s ours, we’ll fight for it. We had lots of business plans over the years, we’re kinda getting to try them all out now.”
“We’ve never run a store. We don’t know what to expect. All the equipment we bought can be repurposed back for restaurant use. We’ll evaluate in January,” they say. “Will it be a restaurant again? Will it be the same restaurant? Will it stay a store? We’ll have to decide. We still want to share our dream with our community and take care of our staff.”
Whatever Corner Peach is by the time its second birthday rolls around, you can bet it will be well-loved and appreciated by those that frequent it.
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The challenges facing local restaurants during the #covid19 pandemic, has created new ways for restaurants to conduct #business. How has @cornerpeach on Somerset St West adapted during these challenging times? Well turning their restaurant into a corner store works! Owners Emma Campell and Caroline Murphy have found a new way to sell prepared meals, bread, wine and other popular casse-croute menu items by opening a corner store in their restaurant. 🗣️ “We’re excited about this new opportunity,” says Campbell. “Ottawa has such great producers; we’re honoured to be able to showcase them this way.” – Emma Campbell 🗣️ “You either give up, or you try everything you can. We’re definitely not ready to give up,” Murphy continues. “We’ve wanted this for so long, it’s ours, we’ll fight for it. We had lots of business plans over the years, we’re kinda getting to try them all out now.” – Caroline Murphy Check the 🔗 in our bio to read more on Corner Peach's transformation into a corner store. . . 📸 and article author: @zachary_resnick 📸: @a.ec.armstrong.613 📸: @ocular_fuckery . . #ottcity #ottnews #smallbusiness #myottawa #supportlocal #support613 #covid613 #apt613