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Tiffany’s Family Restaurant

Sunday June 29th, 2014, 10:55am


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Diving into its past for a successful future, one Windsor diner is serving up something unique.

Located at 2883 Howard Avenue, Tiffany’s Family Restaurant has been around for 30 years. In that time, the venue has undergone many changes and persevered. Rebranding itself with the restaurant’s original name, its current owners have since enjoyed great success.

While not relying solely on the past, they’re well aware of the diner’s legacy.

“We’ve been in here for 2 years,” said owner Chris Laramie. “It’s been here for 30 years, so it’s got quite a long history. In that 30 year period, there’s been 3 really good operators, maybe two that weren’t so great. So we have more good than bad out there … We do have a couple of copies of the old menu when it was Towne & Country Diner. And I know in the 70’s to 80’s there was an OPP officer who owned it with his family. People loved talking to them and it’s always been a family business.”

Laramie has also kept Tiffany’s family-operated. When they first took over, his oldest son Jacob helped things get off the ground in any way he could. Laramie’s wife Kelly assists in running the restaurant and their sons Justin and Christopher lend a hand during the holidays.

It’s a dynamic that branches to extended family and caused things to spin-off elsewhere too.

“My aunt Lori moved back from Vancouver,” said Laramie. “She helped us for a few months. She stayed with us while she was finding a house. She helped us build our business at one critical point and now we’ve helped her by opening a deli with her on Ottawa St. So it’s cool because she got to see this part of the business by helping us for free because she loves us. Now we’ve been able to help her back by building another brand for herself.”

While the deli caters to sufferers of celiac disease, Tiffany’s has found its own clientele. Laramie has moved away from Towne & Country’s old decor,. Feeling the restaurant was historically higher-class with its red carpet, big wooden hutches and dark wood chairs, he notes that food items were drastically different as well. Judging from copies of the old menu they still have, fish platters rang-in at about $1 and steaks cost a whopping $0.50.

Creating a much different menu, Laramie admits even Tiffany’s has changed however.

“there’s been a big progression from there to now,” he said. “Now diners are known for waffles and pancakes and breakfast — totally different items. So there’s been quite a progression, but even our own menu’s grown. We started with a one page menu, eight items on one side, eight items on the back. That was breakfast, lunch. We had no sales ability, we were just learning. You know, we’ve learned tonnes. When we came out with our new menu, we were real excited because we got to sell all kinds of cool stuff, do half orders and give different options. It’s been nice.”

Tiffany’s has gained several signature items too. Eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles are popular with customers. Laramie is also proud of the steak — he describes it as thick and not a “little, thin, fast-fry kind of deal” that people often get at other diners. Even their pancake menu comes with several options to build some unique creations. Oreos, Reese’s, white chocolate chips and blueberries are just a few, the latter two creating a cheesecake flavour.

The best part is that, although these cost extra, that isn’t the case with other menu items.

“A lot of our stuff we don’t charge extra,” said Laramie. “So we might be a buck higher than our competitor, but we don’t charge for pea meal. If you want onion, spices, if you want peanut butter, we don’t charge you. A lot of things that other places would throw a dollar or fifty cents on there for. We really shy away from that because that’s kinda scammy. we’ll just charge you the full price in the first place and then spoil you.”

Satisfying appetites is one thing, but there’s also an interesting story behind Tiffany’s coffee. After a year of searching and taste tests, the restaurant has their own official brand. Although Laramie didn’t mind drinking so many free packets of coffee, the task wasn’t easy. Companies like Colonial and Heritage brought in their best blends for customers, family and hotel guests to try. Finally, all involved decided on a light roast. Even so, it tastes strong because they add more beans: Tiffany’s uses 2 1/4 oz. instead of 2 or 1 1/2 oz. in their packets like others do.

Another one of the coffee’s selling points is its quality. According to Laramie, coffee beans are grown on mountains 10 degrees north and south of the equator all around the world. While their beans are picked from mountaintops, cheaper beans are found at the bottom where water settles. Because of this, the more saturated beans have more caffeine and become increasingly acidic. Tiffany’s coffee is cleaner as a result and isn’t harsh on the stomach or central nervous system.

With the fresh new business this has drawn, many may think Laramie could rest. Unfortunately, the restaurant still faces a set of unique challenges. Given its current location, Tiffany’s doesn’t receive much foot traffic. Being on a commuter route, they have to work even harder to make sure people Know of the diner and where its at.

“One thing is that this is a commuter road,” said Laramie. “So for example, I did a test run with an ice cream parlour. I put this freezer, tiki torches on the lawn, patio furniture, I put out 500 little pad cards just to see if maybe we could run a business mote, like Staples or Walmart might have these other business ventures to try to bring in customers or a different income source. So I figured you know what, I’m going to try ice cream. Well, I got zero cards back. I put 200 cards in the neighbourhood across the street and 300 at the mall which should get me spread throughout the city. I got zero. So two weeks I’m taking a hard loss in labour and I’m asking myself what am I doing wrong, I put the cards out, ice cream’s good quality stuff, the lawn’s all done up. So I stood by the road and the drivers are just tunnel-visioned, they’re not even looking up, they’re just driving. This is not the area for that.”

Another hurdle for the owner is how built-up the area is. Tiffany’s is surrounded by five diners fitting the same niche, three of which are next door, across the street and down the road. Many fast food chains are also right there, including Tim Hortons and McDonald’s a bit further south. While Tiffany’s stands apart from the rest, it creates an intensely competitive environment to survive in.

Advertising has also become crucial because of this. Laramie is always sending out flyers and taking to social media to ensure people don’t forget about the restaurant. He’s seen the response and knows first-hand that nobody comes in on their own otherwise.

As a result, Laramie started a contest where people can win free breakfast for a year. No purchase is necessary to enter and the ballot information remains private. Tiffany’s keeps it to send big announcements about the diner and coupons twice a year. One winner is chosen every month.

Complimenting this contest, a special members card has been launched as well.

“It’s a $25 one-time fee,” said Laramie. “What that does is gives you an exclusive member’s card and you get 20-per-cent off for life. It never expires. What that does, is yeah, we’ll advertise in the little papers and little publications and put coupons out there and that’ll bring people in. And a lot of our culture is coupon or discount driven, but we have to pay every time we get involved in those things and then it’s kind of not fair to one of our regulars that comes every day or comes a couple times a week or couple times a month, that people that have never been here before are getting spoiled on the price, getting discounted, and they come and support us and there’s nothing available to them.”

Having built up the business, talk has even begun about expanding. It’s yet to be decided if a move or second location is in the cards, but a decision will soon be made. Either way, Laramie is excited about the possibilities and looking to set up shop in a densely populated area with more foot traffic.

“We’re approaching our lease renewal,” said Laramie. “The building was purchased a couple of months ago by a new family. That’s been different. So we’re in the negotiation process. We’re also looking at another building as well so it’s either going to be we come up with an amicable solution to stay here forever or we’re going to go ahead and relocate. It’s always been in the back of our minds to have another location as well, even if we did stay here. So it’s not a bad thing if we were to relocate, like, I think, more toward the Walkerville area.”

No matter how much things change though, they often stay the same. While different owners have tried other names, it wasn’t until Tiffany’s embraced its past that it succeeded again. It was so simple that the answer was literally in front of them the whole time.

“It always had the tiffany lamps from the 60’s/early 70’s,” said Laramie. “So we brought it back to Tiffany’s because we thought that’s what people had remembered, people from Leamington, the county and even this neighbourhood, they always remembered Tiffany’s so we brought it back. It was really welcomed when we put the sign back up and people knew it was here again, so we get people telling us stories, ‘we used to come here for a decade’ or ‘we used to come here forever back in the day.’ People have fond memories here. One of the girls across the street is named Tiffany and one of the reasons was that her parents always came here and they loved the Audrey Hepburn film so they named their daughter Tiffany. That’s kind of cool.”

For more information on the restaurant, those with healthy appetites can visit their facebook page or call them at 519-969-8282.

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