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The Sunset Grill – Win $50.00* (Posted On: Monday, October 19, 2009)

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From Breaking Eggs to Breaking Down Barriers.  Looking back a few years, there was no way that Bruce Melhuish and Stacey Forbes, the co-owners of The Sunset Grill franchise in the Village at Blue would imagine that his restaurant would break over 350,000 eggs in just a year and a half.  Nor would he foresee that he would own one of the largest salt and pepper shaker collections in the Georgian Triangle nor would he envision that one of his best employees is visually impaired.

Bruce and his partner, Stacey Forbes (co-owner),   moved to the Georgian Triangle full time 3 and half years ago, after being weekenders for 6 years with a vision of early retirement.  He soon found that he was actually too young and too energetic for retirement and after going from the fast paced corporate world as an executive with Dell, IBM and Rogers, he felt the need to keep busy and spent a lot of time volunteering with local organizations like the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts, teaching seniors how to use computers, and Theatre Collingwood.

He approached Intrawest for a meeting to see if there were any opportunities available in the Village.  Recognizing that there was a hole waiting to be filled in the breakfast market among the Village restaurants, Bruce was soon on the phone with Angelo Christou from the Sunset Grill.

What was scheduled to be just a half hour introductory meeting easily turned into an hour and a half and Bruce, Stacey and Angelo were well on the way to negotiating a partnership.  Bruce points out that one of the things that Angelo was very interested in was Bruce’s already established ties to the local community through his volunteer work.  Being a seasonal destination for tourists the tie to the local community is very important for small business sustainability during the shoulder seasons.

Bruce had never aspired to be a small business owner, nor a restaurant owner.  “That’s the beauty of this partnership, I am a businessman with a financial background and the Sunset Grill brings the restaurant expertise and the supply chain to the table”.

With the deal inked, Bruce, a self-confessed e-bay-aholic surfed around the web for salt and pepper shakers.   It started with mysterious little packages arriving in the mail one by one.  Stacey started to notice a pattern here.  For five months, more little packages arrived.  Now the couple are the proud owners of one of the largest and most interesting collection of salt and pepper shakers in the Georgian Triangle.  Every table has a different surprise a delight…its fun and entertaining.  The collection started with regional themes like fish and animals then moved into seasonal themes like Halloween, Easter and Christmas.  Now, when customers go away on vacation there’s a pretty good chance that when they come back, they are also bringing a new set of salt and pepper shakers from somewhere on the globe to their final resting place at the Sunset Grill.

Bruce and Stacey find it very fortunate that they have fantastic staff and after a year and a half in business the majority of staff is still the same team that helped him open the doors.  One very special addition to his team is Robin Shuter.  Robin came to Bruce through Breaking Down Barriers, a local non-profit organization whose mission is “that we strive to create a supportive community where people with disabilities can live independent lives.”

Catherine Sholtz, Employment Program Coordinator for Breaking Down Barriers contacted Bruce in the spring of 2008 and asked if he would consider hiring one of their clients on a short term basis.  Bruce agreed to an interview and after a successful placement, Robin is now employed with the Sunset Grill on a permanent part time basis. 

The job for Robin has been a tremendous opportunity that has helped increase her self confidence, ability to independently generate an income and learn a new skill set.

For Bruce and Stacey, they have a reliable employee who is a welcome member of their team.  Anyone in the restaurant business knows that a reliable employee is worth their weight in gold!  Click here to view a video interview with Bruce and Robin.

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