Once upon a time, back in 1940, there was a restaurant called The Leaside Tea Room. It was the first commercial building on Laird.
Over the years many more commercial businesses have appeared on the street, but few would have as interesting a history.
The Tea Room (where you couldn’t buy liquor) became Leaside Restaurant and Tavern and then Fox and Fiddle, before becoming The Leaside Pub (where you can buy tea) this past June, thanks to three people who met at Bessborough School’s Mayfair several years ago and developed a dream.
The first of the three was Param Ratna, the franchise owner of the Fox and Fiddle at the corner of Laird and McRae. He was a generous donor for the event’s BBQ.
Two neighbours on Bessborough Dr., Sue Barrett (who ran the fair for many years) and Jeff Hohner, were side-by-side, flipping burgers.
“Because we all met at Mayfair, we started talking about joining as business partners,” says Hohner. “Param’s the real hero. It was because of his commitment to community fundraising that we came together.”
They joined Ratna as franchise owners, but waited for the contract to end so they could make changes.
“There had been a place to eat in Leaside at the corner of McRae and Laird since around 1940,” says Hohner. “Many of our friends and customers told us our location was a hub, the neighbourhood local, so we thought it was right to return it to its roots as a ‘Leaside’ restaurant.”
The history of service to the community began back with the original tea house.
At the time, people employed in the industrial area commuted to Leaside by train and needed a place to eat as well as a bank.
The Leaside Tea House was built first at 190 Laird. Some years later the Canadian Bank of Commerce was attached to it, at 188.
When the two buildings were combined in 1961 to make The Leaside Restaurant and Tavern the wall was opened up with large arches.
Today both buildings are original and the brick arches still in place. Customers may notice the thickness of the wall and a ridge along the floor. The original bank safe is clearly visible along the back wall.
“And they tell me that there is a second safe in the basement,” adds Barrett, “but I wouldn’t know. Apparently it is in the men’s washroom.”
The Leaside Restaurant and Tavern owners retired in 1999 and sold the building to the Fox & Fiddle group, which added the English pub decor, including the large iron chandeliers and tin ceiling.
“There is so much history here,” says Hohner, “when you think of how many years it served the neighbourhood, in particular the employees in the area including Canada Wire and Cable, Sangamo Electric, Tremco, Lincoln Electric, Imperial Oil (in the building where the Golden Griddle is), Phillips and other surrounding businesses.”
Since becoming business partners, Hohner, the Barretts (Sue and her husband Ed) and Ratna have worked to make the place similar to a British pub.
It appeals to all age groups. Seniors come in for lunch, families and friends gather for meals and celebrations, and young kids meet up with their friends. One of its biggest draws are sports teams – rugby, basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, as well as dart leagues.
Fundraising remains a core part of how the pub gives back to the community, “It is expensive and difficult to find a venue in the neighbourhood,” says Hohner, “So we offer the pub to local groups holding fundraising events.”
“And we just had our second request to host a wake here,” notes Barrett.
“The community continues to see a lot of change,” Hohner notes, “but by turning this place into The Leaside Pub, we hope we can help remind people that some things are still the same.”