This is a memorable year for Richard and Tina Tremblay.
The Timmins couple is marking the 10th anniversary of their business, Le Shack A Patate. And they are doing so under remarkable circumstances — massive road construction on their doorstep in the midst of a global pandemic.
The owners of the popular chip stand are taking it in stride and keep serving up delicious meals with a smile.
“It was my mother’s idea,” Richard said. “She was always interested in owning a little restaurant or chip stand. When this opportunity came up, we decided to buy it together. She moved up in age and we took it over.
“I enjoy meeting the people and chatting with them. The cooking, not so much. My wife usually takes care of the cooking. I like socializing with the people up front, chatting while their food is cooking.
“When things get back to normal, we’ll be chatting again. And we’ll put our tables out.”
It was a big decision to go into business for themselves. They have no regrets.
“One of the main reasons we decided to go into this business to help pay for our children’s education and we’ll always guarantee our children to have a summer job,” Tina said.
Le Shack A Patate not only serves up fries, burgers and hot dogs, it also offers a surprising variety of options.
“For a chip stand, it is a pretty extensive menu,” he said. “We always try to grow our menu.
“We added clubhouses. We didn’t have fish and chips, and added that. We’re always getting new ideas.
“Thinking what can we put on the menu and dreaming up some of these recipes, we try them out. Some of them are successful, and if not, take them off the menu.”
They strive to find something for everyone.
“We try to offer a variety. Beyond Beef burgers for people who are vegan, vegan gravy, a lettuce wrap for people on Keto and don’t want the bread,” Richard said. “We try to accommodate our customers the best we can.”
They go to great lengths to avoid possible cross-contamination of food items.
“We have two fryers that are just for the French fries, so people who are gluten intolerant can enjoy the fries,” Tina said.
“We have one fryer for all the appetizers and one just for fish,” he noted. “Because of allergies and stuff.”
Many of the specialty items on the menu keep bringing customers back.
“Our Shack Poutine is something that is really popular,” Richard said. “It’s a poutine that has hamburger, bacon and fried onions with the gravy, cheese and fries.
“Our clubhouses are something that has been on the menu only two or three years and we use real turkey, not that processed meat. It’s real white turkey breast. And our Philly steak sandwich is something new from a couple of years ago.
“We try to be unique and offer stuff other people don’t have.”
Other menu items include regular and jumbo hot dogs, cheese dogs, chilli dogs, chilli cheese dogs and bacon cheese dogs. There are also chicken parmesan sandwiches, BLTs and grilled cheese.
Even through the pandemic, business has been fairly steady.
“The COVID situation hasn’t affected us too badly, because we’re mainly a delivery and take-out place,” Richard said. “The only thing it has hurt is I can’t put my tables out outside. We adhere to all the Porcupine Health Unit recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID.”
“We implemented Visa, Mastercard and debit for payment, because a lot of people don’t want to use cash,” Tina said. “And we do delivery on our own now.”
To help customers during the pandemic, delivery is free.
“The last couple of years, to help people out, we’ve offered free delivery within the city limits, from Schumacher to Shirley (Street),” he said. “Any purchase that is $25 before taxes, we offer free delivery.”
Even though major road construction on Algonquin Boulevard is right on the doorstep of Le Shack A Patate, the Tremblays remain optimistic.
“The (construction) guys are really good, they’re working with us,” he said. “They’ve ensured us that access to our chip stand will still be available.
“Right now, the best way to access the chip stand will be off Theriault, up either Willow or Vimy, and down Fogg. If that is inconvenient, delivery is always an option.
“Plus, they have been good supporting us. Eating (from) here on an almost daily basis.”
The couple appreciates the customer loyalty they have received. To mark the 10th anniversary of the business, they are having a monthly draw for $50 gift certificate.
“The support has been amazing,” Tina said. “There is always me and my husband here, so if there is an error, we are always available to talk to the customer one on one and make it right. That’s a huge difference between us and (chains).”
They know many of their customers by name, as familiar faces return season after season.
“When we were broken into a few years ago, a lot of our customers came and helped us out,” Richard said. “They helped us clean up.
“A man came and built me a new counter. It was overwhelming.”
Le Shack A Patate is located at 442 Algonquin Blvd. W. in Timmins and can be reached at 705-267-6869. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can also check them out on Facebook .