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Lawrencetown’s Shakes on Main a cool 1950s-style diner with exceptional staff


LAWRENCETOWN, N.S. —

Odessa MacNeil is turning back time in Lawrencetown as she opens a ‘50s-style diner complete with a ‘Happy Days’ feel, a cool name, and a menu Richie Cunningham would have approved complete with root beer floats, banana splits, and of course milk shakes.

Shakes on Main opens Sept. 3 at the former Lawrencetown Restaurant where Carleton Road Industries Association took ownership back in the spring, spent months doing extensive renovations, and transformed it into something hip and modern that’s rooted in the past.

There’s something called the ‘Marshmallow Munroe,’ a peanut butter and butterscotch-flavoured shake topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, butterscotch syrup, and butterscotch confetti square. Or the Mini Monkey. Or what about the Brownie La Bamba?

But it’s not all about sweet stuff that eventually melts. There’s the Razz my Berries pancakes, the Buddy Holly Burger, the Big Bopper Burger, the Hot Diggity hot dog. And something called the Old Yeller – a hot dog covered in fried onions, ketchup, mustard, and relish. Did we mention Peggy Sue’s Poutine?

“It’s like burgers, shakes – we have a little bit of everything,” MacNeil said a week before opening day. “Salads, sandwiches, fries. We have lots of desserts. Lots of old-style desserts.”

Terri-Ann Townsend is helping get ready for the opening and has even posed for promotional photos.

“I’ll be a waitress. I’m going to try,” she said. She’s a client at Carleton Road Industries and MacNeil has a lot of faith in her abilities. “I used to work at a restaurant, but I was doing the dish washing. I was working at the deli in Middleton.”

She’s looking forward to her new duties and expects that she might even get to scoop ice cream.

“Oh yes, I’m very excited,” Townsend said, adding she’d work seven days a week if she could. “I like working. I can stand on my feet all day.”

BRIGHT

The décor is bright yellows, reds, and blues above a black and white checkered floor and white and red booths with red table tops. Vinyl records decorate the wall with Elvis, Bobby Vee, and an album called Juke Box Jive. MacNeil has a line on a couple of real juke boxes that would complete the ‘50s feel.

This isn’t the first kick at the can for Carleton Road Industries Association. They’ve been part of a growing vibrancy in Lawrencetown for a number of years.

“We are a vocational centre,” said MacNeil. “Our main mandate is to provide meaningful employment for people with exceptionalities who may not be successful in the regular workforce. We provide training with the goal of someday getting them out to the regular workforce. But if that’s not an option then we provide numerous enterprises to have our clients working at.”

Besides Shakes on Main, they operate a thrift store, a gas bar and convenience store, a workshop, the bottle depot, and they deliver the advertising fliers locally. In all of their enterprises the clients work with the public – and that’s paying off bigtime, and not just for the hard-working people like Townsend.

“It’s eliminating the stigma” MacNeil explained. “Some of these guys are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and they have some pretty horrible stories about what it used to be like to grow up. Now they’re very involved in their community and everything. Yeah, it’s great.”

EMPLOYMENT

So, starting out, Shakes on Main will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Our purpose is to provide these guys with meaningful employment and that would be the hours they’re used to working,” she said. “However, we want to be able to be open weekends and evenings to provide the diner for the community because we exist because the community supports us. So, we’ve been figuring out what hours we’re going to be open.”

As they work out the kinks, and expanding their hours, MacNeil can add staff as needed.

The first big test for MacNeil and her staff was set for Aug. 30.

“We’re having our board members in Friday for breakfast, so that will be our trial run,” she said. “We’re going to nail it. We’ll be awesome.”

Townsend agreed but both admitted it’s been a learning curve.

EXCEPTIONALITIES

There’s another reason MacNeil hit on a 1950s-style diner and it has nothing to do with food. It has to do with how people with exceptionalities were treated in the 1950s.

She was off work when CRIA took over the restaurant. The same day that happened she was reading a newspaper article about a woman whose brother was institutionalized his entire life.

“He was born around the ‘50s. A well-off family and everything, but that’s what they were supposed to do and that’s what the doctor recommended – sending your disabled child to an institution where they lived out their unfulfilled life. I hate that,” she said. “Our clients are so capable and have done amazing things and have such great, meaningful lives. And I’m like ‘Oh I wish I could turn back time and show how awesome all of our clients are, and how capable they are and everything.’ I said ‘How cool would it be to turn back time, do the ‘50s diner and have these guys waitressing and running the show? It would be awesome.’ So that’s where the inspiration came from.”

Will the public be supportive? MacNeil has no doubts. People have been dropping by in droves.

“I’m actually surprised we haven’t been interrupted yet,” she said during an interview. “It’s just non-stop. If someone forgets to lock this door there are people walking in all day. They’re just like ‘WOW!’ They’re pretty excited. There’s tons and tons of interest. I think it will be popular.”

While CRIA has left quite a mark on Lawrencetown, MacNeil said that is only possible because the village is very supportive.

“Like I said, we wouldn’t exist if they weren’t,” she said. “We’re not for profit and we need the community’s support.”

ABOUT CRIA

Carleton Road Industries Association is a non-profit, charitable Adult Service Centre located in Lawrencetown, Annapolis County. Our service provision is directed toward the vocational, and life skills training areas to those adult residents of Annapolis and Kings Counties who are diagnosed with mental, intellectual, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. Our mandate is to provide high quality and diverse programs that will assist in the successful transition into the workforce. When this is not attainable, to provide meaningful employment opportunities with the supervision of qualified and professional staff.

GoOnline: https://www.facebook.com/shakesonmain/

GoOnline: http://carletonroadindustries.com/

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