By Richard Bell
Opening a new restaurant in the age of social media is different.
Just ask Will Gilligan and Amanda Russell, who announced on Facebook at 10:30 pm on November 18 that they hoped to have the Old No.7 Restaurant and Sports Bar in the Head of Jeddore shopping centre open by mid- to late-January.
“I have to say, I’m overwhelmed today,” Gilligan told the Cooperator in a phone interview. “We put out a little social media teaser, and it’s just blown up. I’ve been on Facebook for hours today. The response from the community has been great! Electricians, carpenters, people offering to come in and help clean. Everyone’s very excited. We are so grateful.”
Gilligan worked in the restaurant business for 20 years, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to chef, and Russell said that she worked for several summers at restaurants in Sheet Harbour. The site started off years ago as Captain Todd’s, then Toddy’s , and most recently, Marcus and Willy's.
“We want to build a real community-based restaurant,” Gilligan said. “The bar will be very Eastern Shore-themed. We’re collecting vintage jerseys from local teams to display.”
Gilligan said that they would be doing a Kickstarter campaign in a few weeks. “The kitchen was in rough shape. We’ve having to gut it and clean it and bring in all new equipment.” He said he’ll be acting as a general manager. “Rob Andrews will be running the kitchen. He’s been with me on and off since he was 16. He’s 38 now, practically a member of the family.”
Russell is working out the details for the front end of the restaurant. “We’re still picking colours and buying new fixtures,” Russell said. “Will just scrapped a bunch of kitchen equipment today. I’m expecting the next 4 to 6 weeks to be really rapid fire.”
Russell said she estimated they would eventually have a staff of about 20. “I know we’ve been getting people in area asking us are we hiring servers, kitchen staff,” she said. “We both have ties to Eastern Shore, and we’d like the Eastern Shore to benefit with new local jobs and use local products. Once we’re in there, we’ll use social media to post what positions we want to fill.”
The couple have a soon-to-be 4-year old whom her mother describes as “our in-house food critic, a real foodie. She’s not shy about letting us know when something’s too salty, or too sweet.”
Gilligan said he was especially touched by an email congratulating them from the owner of the Porters Lake Pub. “We’re friends and he knows it’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life. But hearing from him says a lot about the people where we live.”
They have a back-up plan in the event that the tightening up of Covid restrictions makes it impossible to open for in-house eating in January. “We’re hoping that people have an appetite to keep us going through take-out. And we’ll probably look at delivery too.”