For almost four decades, Casey’s has been a hot spot in Timmins for food and fun.
And it all came about following a mining injury.
Brian and Sylvia Reid have owned and operated Casey’s in Timmins from the beginning.
“It will be 38 years in February,” Sylvia said. “I was working at the very original Casey’s in Sudbury. Brian, at the time, was a miner at Inco. He had a bit of a tragedy. He fell on a scaffold over 28 feet. He managed to climb his way back onto the cage.
“Even to this day, Brian would give anything to grab a lunch pail and go back into the mine.”
Looking for a new career, the couple decided to get a restaurant of their own.
“We looked into a franchise and were finally approved,” she said. “They were working on openings in St. Catharines and Timmins. My husband said ‘I’m a Northerner and won’t go down south,’ so we came up here.”
Timmins turned out to be a perfect fit for the Reids.
“We thought we’d be here maybe 10 or 15 years and go back to Sudbury or whatever, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” she said. “We’re very happy. We’ve made some wonderful friends. We’re very blessed.”
They credit the success of Casey’s in Timmins with their loyal staff.
“My husband is here at 7 o’clock every single morning,” Sylvia said. “Myself and the other managers, we handle the other shifts, the closing shifts, and there is always a 12-9 manager. We’re still hands on.
“Having said that, we have wonderful managers. And I think too, we are so blessed that we have employees — there’s two, one is 32 years, one 31 years, and I have quite a few in the range of 20-28 years. It’s become just like a family. That’s what keeps us going. We have wonderful people.”
A change in the franchise’s parent company created a new opportunity for the couple.
“We were under Prime Restaurants before. Prime was bought out by Cara Foods,” she explained. “Then they approached us here and said we had to either change to a pub or a Kelsey’s. So, we said no. They got rid of all the Casey’s, but there are eight of us who decided to get together.
“We drove to Ottawa. The owner of the Casey’s there had a franchise lawyer. We approached Cara Foods after that to buy out the Casey’s trade name, so we could operate under that. The lawyer said otherwise, they could plop a Casey’s right beside you and we couldn’t do anything. We’ve been on our own now, I think it’s five or six years.”
Without franchise restrictions, they were able to change the menu to bring back local favourites that were discontinued by the chain.
“We can do what we want now,” she said. “In all the years they operated, they travelled all over the place, to California even, to see what was hot and trending. They would come back (from research trips) and mushroom caps were still our highest seller, more than anything they came up with as an appetizer.”
The tornado potato is another popular item brought back by the Reids.
She said there are a number of popular items on their revamped menu.
“Our ribs, our wings, our burgers,” Sylvia said. “We’re in the process right now of trying to build up our pasta section. We could use a few more pastas because we still get the customers asking a lot. And it’s funny, it’s the old favourites again — the cappelletti. And people love spaghetti and meatballs.
“Before COVID started, we started running different pastas (on special) so we would know what to put on our new section. It was the cappelletti and the spaghetti and meatballs. We made our own sauce. We made our own meatballs. And we ran that as a special. People loved it.”
Of course, she has her own personal favourites.
“I love our ribs,” she said. “I usually work 11-9 every Friday. So, depending on what time I get off, I love sitting up at the bar after I get off and I’ll have a Caesar and some wings. I love it.”
Casey’s is also a hot spot for watching sports with friends and other fans.
“My husband just brought a new TV for the bar and another for the back wall,” she said. “We have a lot of people who come to watch the sports, especially from the Super 8 (hotel next door) and Comfort Inn (down the street).”
Like every restaurant, Casey’s was hit hard by the pandemic.
“For almost over nine months, we were closed. That’s a lot of sales,” Sylvia said. “We decided to close totally (during the provincial lockdowns). We felt, for us, it was better.
“My patio, I only have seven tables. So, talking to other restaurant owners, we would still have to bring in a bartender, a server for the patio, two cooks and you’re not guaranteed anything. One night, you’re getting five takeout orders and another night you’re getting 12.
“Because we’re on our own, we own our building, so we were able to do this. I also checked with my staff, with the EI, they were all OK.”
She was pleased to welcome staff back after each lockdown ended.
“I have 51 staff now,” she said. “Coming back, the first two (lockdowns) I didn’t lose anybody, but this last one I lost a couple of people. Two of my guys went to the mine and, you know, you can’t blame them. They've got to take care of themselves and their families.”
Casey’s reopened in mid-August after the last lockdown.
“Opening up, we so fortunate, we just had enough. I could use one more full-time cook, but at least I was able to open up and it’s worked out well.”
They are also doing their part to battle the spread of COVID-19.
“My staff, we’re all vaccinated. That’s been a plus for us,” she explained. “I’ve had so many people thank us for that, saying ‘my daughter has this’ or ‘my son has that.’ I did it to protect us, our staff and everyone who comes in.”
After nearly 40 years, the Reids still enjoy their work.
“I have my regulars,” Sylvia said. “Certain families come out every Friday.
“I love people, so it’s good.
“We are so busy. We’re so fortunate.”
Casey’s is located at 760 Algonquin Blvd. E. in Timmins. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s closed Sundays.