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New restaurant opens in former DeMarco's location

'There is so much character here, so much history. We’re trying to bring back as much of the DeMarco’s vibe as we can'

Brady Bertrand together with his wife, Emily Chadbourn are thrilled to be the owners of a new restaurant in the former DeMarco’s Confectionary building located on Algonquin Avenue, North Bay.  

Crossroads Convenience opened roughly six months ago.  

“We’re trying to bring back as much of the DeMarco’s vibe as we can, open the space back up to the community. We have tons and tons of customers coming in here just to check it out, to see what it is like, to see what changes we’ve made,” Bertrand proudly stated.

“And along with that, we hear all these great stories about what DeMarco’s meant to the community. And I just want to capture even just a little bit of that, to bring the community back into the space. That is what we’re really looking for.”  

The pair met while working on the east-coast and moved to the city roughly two years ago.

“We had our ears to the ground for a location, we were thinking about opening a restaurant, but at the same time, I was kind of disenchanted with the restaurant industry. So, I was kind of thinking of doing something else when Melissa from the North Star Diner posted on Instagram that she was closing down.  I reached out to her and as soon as I saw the space I had to have it, I really did,”  Bertrand said with a grin.

“There is so much character here, so much history. I have always been a big fan of history, so when you start learning about the DeMarco’s and what they meant to the community, it is so interesting,” said Bertrand.

See: Iconic North Bay store closing!

And: 'There were lots of tears' Tony DeMarco

It was a homecoming of sorts for Chadbourn, who, having grown up in the city, was already familiar with DeMarco’s history.  

As a young girl, Chadbourn spent many hours at DeMarco’s.  

“My dad used to work at the courthouse actually, and he used to take me to DeMarco’s for lunch all the time. So, I’m very familiar with Tony and Lisa and the family,” shared Chadbourn.

“It is such an awesome space. People do come in here for the nostalgia and to look around, and I feel that too. So, we were like, ‘We have to do something with this space.’

The husband-and-wife team brings many years of hospitality industry experience to the table.

Not only is Bertrand an owner, but he is also the chef.

“We try to cook as locally as we can. We’re a sandwich shop, so we get our bread locally, we have a butcher in Restoule that sources all Ontario meats for us and we cook everything we possibly can, in-house. We’re trying to dabble in the farm-to-table thing, trying to make food that is affordable. People can come in here and enjoy the space and don’t feel that you have to spend an arm and a leg to be here. If you just want to have a coffee and hang out at the bar, we’re more than happy to have you.”

The idea is to cook seasonally, changing the menu as often as possible.

“Right now the menu mostly plays on classic sandwiches because it is hard to source local produce right now. People have been really gravitating towards the meatloaf because it is a throwback to DeMarco’s. Ironically enough I didn’t even know they had one on the menu. It wasn’t until we opened that people were saying ‘Oh wow, the meatloaf is back!”  So I’m really happy to have that,” added Bertrand.

Included in their list of sandwiches are beef dip, and vegan pastrami.

“We have a classic Reuben, who doesn’t love that?  And my personal favourite right now is probably the Kimchi Turkey Melt. Turkey breast is something I’ve had on the menu since we opened. We brine it here, roast it here. You’ll never find processed meats other than the ham we use for the Monte Cristo sandwich. We had the holiday version of the turkey on the menu with cranberry sauce and brie and bacon, but I was looking to change it up a little bit. So, this one is really exciting. There is some kimchi which is like an Asian fermented cabbage, it is from Korea. And we have a nice scallion sesame aioli, our turkey breast bacon and cheddar cheese. I really like it; it is quite good.”

Add a bowl of homemade soup to enjoy alongside the sandwich or on its own.

Choose from vegan or non-vegan soups.  

“Our soups are always cooked in-house.  We try to cater to as many dietary restrictions as possible. Even for our coffees we offer alternative milks, and a vegan version of our breakfast sandwich. I will always have a vegan sandwich on the menu. We offer gluten-free bread as well. We call it gluten-friendly. We have an extremely limited cooking space, so it is not like I can guarantee there would be no cross-contamination, so we label it as gluten-friendly and, as long as people are informed and are okay that it is cooked on our panini press as our regular sandwiches, I am more than happy to accommodate,” Bertrand pointed out.

“But I will always keep the soups gluten-free and I will always keep the salads dairy and gluten-free, things like that. We try to appeal to as many different people as possible.”

Wash it all down with your choice of beverage from the cooler.  

“We have alcohol in our cooler and we operate as a bottle shop as well. So, everything in the cooler you can take home with you as long as there is a food purchase. And again, we try to source everything from Ontario, down to our sodas. So, you’re more than welcome to have a beer, a glass of wine, or we have seltzers from different breweries with your lunch.”

The couple is also working on hosting ticketed dinners once a month.

“Brady is a very talented chef. A sandwich shop is nice but it is not necessarily his background, so we want to be able to showcase those skills, and have people enjoy more elevated food in this space. Maybe once a month, maybe more frequently,” Chadbourn stated.

“We did fine-ish dining for Valentine’s Day and I’m actually writing the menu for the next one (night). So, we’re going to be doing probably five-course dinners once a month, and during those nights we’ll definitely have more experimental drinks and fun stuff,” Bertrand explained.

Crossroad Convenience also caters to the competitive side of its customers.

“We do Jeopardy night trivia. Jeopardy, we have been doing the first Friday of every month. The next Jeopardy will be April 5 and May 3 after that,” Bertrand explained.

The couple is seeing a cross-section of new and returning customers.

“It is really great to see. The cast of regulars we have is so incredible. We have been absolutely blessed with incredible clientele. Some people are from the offices around here during the week. We have a really good group of regulars, we’ve got a lot of vegans from Melissa’s old restaurant (North Star Diner) they’re staying loyal to the space,” Bertrand stated.

“We have really all age groups. We’re getting tons of young families from around the neighbourhood, and a lot of seniors who enjoyed DeMarco’s back in the day. I wouldn’t say we have one specific age group or gender.”

The business name Crossroads Convenience has a family tie.  

“My grandmother, Madeleine Chadbourn, used to own Crossroads Convenience on Four Mile Lake Road in the 80s, 90s with very similar vibes to DeMarco’s where it was retail stuff, grocers’ convenience items, and then you could also go get yourself some food, like a sandwich, or a coffee. People just loved her coffee,” explained Chadbourn.

“So, we thought it would be a fun throwback, to mix those two together and pay homage to those two businesses. So, that is why we’re doing what we’re doing here in terms of the sandwiches, the soups, the salads, really easy, approachable lunch foods. And then we have stuff to go as well, like the beers, the wines, we have coffee, we have chips. We eventually want to expand the retail section a bit more, but we’ll probably do that gradually,”  shared Chadbourn.

In the summer, they may introduce ice cream to expand the convenience side of the business.

“We even still have the DeMarco's old milkshake machine. So, to be able to use that again would be pretty cool,” Chadbourn grinned.

The restaurant is currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The best way to track us and figure out when we’re doing all this stuff is via Facebook or Instagram. Social media is where you’ll find all of our events. So that is just @crossroadsnb. We are working on a website.”