MUSKOKA - Have you heard the latest rumours about Rebecca’s Fine Dining?
TIME FOR A CHANGE.
Rebecca and Charles Penwell are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their restaurant, Rebecca’s Casual Fine Dining in Port Carling, but they’ve also announced that the business is for sale. While rumours have been swirling about the reason for selling the successful restaurant, the couple says it’s simply a matter of moving on to other business opportunities.
Photo by Bev McMullen
If not, you probably haven’t been spending enough time around Port Carling.
Rumours about the renowned fine dining restaurant have been swirling for a couple of weeks, ever since the restaurant was listed for sale.
“I’ve heard that we’re splitting up, that we’ve sold for a million dollars, that we’re leaving town… You wouldn’t believe the stories,” laughed Charles Penwell, executive chef at the restaurant and co-owner with his wife Rebecca.
The truth, he said, is considerably less scandalous: after 10 years of making a living in a seasonal business, it’s time to take a day off.
As anyone who works in the restaurant business knows, the work for an owner-operator is never-ending, particularly when the restaurant — like many in Muskoka — closes for several months of the year. While there’s downtime in January and February, summers involve nothing but working and sleeping.
“We’re both working 120 hours a week,” Penwell said. His typical day starts at 8 a.m. and doesn’t end until around 11 p.m. “Last year I took two days off all summer.”
That commitment has paid dividends: the restaurant this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary, a remarkable feat in an industry where longevity is a rarity. The restaurant is renowned for its loyal clientele, with customers who dine there weekly or more often throughout the cottage season.
“It was a big thing for us to get to 10 years,” Penwell said. But with a young son at home, and other business opportunities on the horizon, the couple decided it was time to sell the business and do something else.
Just what those other things are is still being determined, but they will certainly involve continuing to cook. The couple has been in the restaurant business a lot longer than 10 years. Prior to opening Rebecca’s, they ran another restaurant in Port Carling. Other positions before that included consulting on restaurant openings in the U.S., and running a spot in the Florida Keys for a number of years.
In recent years Rebecca’s homemade soups have become a popular item in gourmet food shops and Penwell believes there’s room to grow that business considerably.
Whatever the next phase is, Penwell said the couple plans to remain in Muskoka.
As for the future of the restaurant, that depends on the buyer. The couple is open to some sort of transition or management contract in order to ensure a seamless transition for both customers and staff.
“We’ve had staff in tears over this,” revealed Penwell. “We’ve even had customers in tears, people saying ‘You can’t leave us. You guys are an institution.’”
For now, though, Rebecca’s will continue as it always has, with Charles in the kitchen and Rebecca at the front door, welcoming customers and ensuring their meal is an experience that will keep them coming back for more.