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Like many Islanders, Bruce Rooney remembers going to the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Stratford as a kid and sitting in a corner booth.
Rooney will once again get to sit in one of those corner booths, but now as the general manager of Nimrods' as a year-round restaurant is getting set to open at that location. The goal is to open around the middle of December.
"Lots of moving parts right now with some new equipment coming in (and) doing a lot of beautification to the outside of the building. We just really want to give Stratford something that's nice and exciting," said Rooney.
That beautification includes a new charcoal and gold trim paint job on the exterior – a change from the previous familiar beige brick and white trim. There is also going to be some new signage and billboards for the restaurant, he added.
Rooney, along with Nimrods' owners Jesse Clausheide, Mikey Wasnidge and Nigel Haan, temporarily set up in the former KFC building for Burger Love in September. The drive-thru operation went so well that they decided to stay put and open year-round. The drive-thru option was a big selling point to remain at that spot.
"What we learned from Burger Love is that there is a big demand for drive-thrus, especially in terms of COVID," Rooney said. "We can offer them a quick option, a healthier option for people and get them on their way."
They've also hired a chef, Brian Peters, to help out with the menu. They're still looking to fill some restaurant positions, such as cooks and service staff. Once open, the restaurant is expected to employ around 15 people, Rooney said.
KFC opened in 1975 at the busy Trans-Canada Highway and Stratford Road intersection. In December 2016, the owner closed KFC because there wasn't enough business.
Today, the building looks different from the outside, but the layout, front counter and retro seating will be familiar to anyone who was last inside the business when it was KFC.
"We don't want to depart completely from this because it is, for a lot of locals, kind of nostalgic and cool — a retro diner vibe," Rooney said.
The idea is to offer family-friendly and fast service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a menu with a lot of locally sourced and organic food options for indoor dining and the drive-thru, such as burgers, wraps, sandwiches (including breakfast sandwiches), salads and desserts.
"Definitely on the healthier side," Rooney added.
Nimrods' is also going to be serving customers coffee from Caledonia House, a business that is well-known at the Charlottetown Farmers' Market, and craft beer from local producers.
It's been a busy couple of years for Nimrods'. It had a food truck at different locations in Charlottetown. Then in April 2019, Charlottetown city council rejected its application to have a licensed mobile canteen set up in a vacant lot between Cedar’s Eatery and the Old Triangle on Great George Street. That led to opening a licensed wood-fire pizza and pasta bar at the Peake’s Quay Marina floating food court for the past two summers.
"It's been quite a journey," Rooney said. "Time flies in a lot of ways, but it's good."
They're planning to go back to the floating food court at the Peakes Quay marina in Charlottetown next summer, but for now, they're excited to have a year-round restaurant.
"Admittedly, it's a little bit scary opening up a restaurant in the wintertime because of the nature of the slower season. But based on the feedback we got, people really want us here in Stratford, and we were pumped to hear that," Rooney said. "We just want to give Stratford something new and exciting. I think people are ready for what we have to offer, so we're really excited."
Terrence McEachern is The Guardian's business reporter.
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