By Ken Gene
Gene’s Restaurant was founded by my parents, Larry and Rae Gene, in 1970. They were originally trying to open up on my 8th birthday in June. They were a few days late and eventually opened up on June 6, 1970.
We took over a restaurant called Erie Barbecue (or Erie BBQ?) at 38 Erie Street. We made it into a 35 seat dining room with takeout as well. What was in the neighbourhood back then? The Off Track Betting store was beside us on the left, Lee Littel’s Classic Art shop was at the end of the street towards Ontario Street. Canadian Tire was directly across the street. Riehl Motors was a few stores down past the still existing bank parking garage that was owned then by Victoria and Grey.
It was truly a “Mom and Pop” small business. My parents were the cooks. My brother, Wayne, and I were always there helping out by mostly washing dishes by hand, and maybe doing something with vegetables. I recall the opening weekend had a promotion where the take out customers got a free case of coke with their order. I think the coke was the larger glass bottles and maybe a case of 4 or 6 bottles. Anyway, I recall a big stack of cases of coke like you would see for a display at a supermarket. We had a busy opening weekend and those cases of cokes were all gone!
We did hire have a couple waitresses at that time and soon hired a Chinese cook out of Toronto on the 2nd or third year. We expanded into the building that was the Off Track Betting. This would be where my mother would grow her own bean sprouts. Also, this was where the cook had his living quarters.
In 1975 we would expand and move Gene’s Restaurant to the current location at 81 Ontario Street. That was the location of the former Center Restaurant that had a fire in the late 1960s, and before that Rankins who were well known for their candy.
This was a new era for Gene’s Restaurant!
Our thanks to Ken for writing this article on his family’s business