The iconic Lawrencetown Restaurant closed its doors March 19 after 12 years of ownership by Shaun Saunders, but he expects new owners will re-open the eating establishment after some interior renovations.
Saunders bought the restaurant in 2007 from Marie Hann and ran it for seven years before turning it over to Elizabeth and Helen Taylor in an equal partnership arrangement. They ran it until this week.
When he ran the restaurant, Saunders did the hiring and managed the place but also helped out in the kitchen with food prep, dishwashing, and cleaning.
While he wasn’t the chef, he made the pies, the chowders, and all the desserts.
The decision to sell came with changing economic times, Saunders said. He had weathered the economic recession shortly after he purchased the restaurant and made a go of it for years after. But there is new competition, changing demographics.
Saunders also owns a rest home, where he also cooks the meals, and has other business interests that keep him busy.
He is currently in negotiations with prospective new owners and believes if everything works out, the restaurant will re-open and thrive under leadership that will take it in a new and exciting direction.
“I think it will be good,” Saunders said, but he added that if the deal did fall through for some reason, it would be listed as a commercial property. “We’re certainly not going to sell the equipment. We’re not going to break it down. It will be sold as a restaurant.”
Saunders said if he sold it any other way it would probably never open again.
Lawrencetown Restaurant posted the closure on its Facebook page March 19 and within minutes was getting comments of commiseration, regrets, and stories of great food and fun going back many decades.
Penny McGuigan was sad about the closure. “I am so sorry that you have closed the Lawrencetown family restaurant,” she said on Facebook. “I have been a happy patron for more than 40 years.”
Patti Watt Hung, a former employee of the restaurant also commented. “So sorry to hear this. Hard decision to make. Good luck to where the road will lead you both. Take care.”
Jennifer Lewis Park said: “Your restaurant will always be part of some of my best memories. Sorry to see that you are closing.”
Another patron wrote: “Wow - a true icon disappearing...sad to hear it.”
Lawrencetown Restaurant has known many incarnations over almost 100 years but is perhaps best known as the Fireman’s Restaurant.
The original establishment was called Oulette Eatery in 1932, but it burned in 1937 and was replaced by a smaller building that was variously Maurice’s Diner, the Wagon Wheel, and in 1965 was bought by firemen. They sold it in 1984 and it became the Bavarian Restaurant, which was sold to the Gaul family who ran it until 1992. Bob Gesner operated it until 2002 and Hann owned it until Saunders took over.
Information on the restaurant’s long history can be found in local historian David Whitman’s book ‘Always on Call - History and Stories of Lawrencetown Fire Department.’