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Gavan’s celebrates one year under new ownership

Camilla Faragalli
Quyon Nov. 26, 2023
Legendary local watering hole, restaurant and live-music venue Gavan’s Hotel celebrated one year under new owner Jim Cain on Saturday evening.
The night featured rock and country Ottawa band Eastbound by Bytown, plenty of beer and a whole lot of fun.
“As far as first years go, based on my zero experience in hospitality, I think we’ve hit it out of the park,” Cain said.
Around the time that Cain bought the business, he told THE EQUITY he had heard from locals who thought the business had shut down years ago, “because there weren’t as many events happening, and there wasn’t as much promotion.”
Cain made it his mission to change this perception.
“We’re starting to get a lot of people coming back,” Cain said Saturday. “We’re doing more things, we’ve got more lights turned on, we’ve got a brand new kitchen and all new food and people are really enjoying that.”
According to Cain, Gavan’s new full kitchen staff is a first for the hotel, and the new menu is doing “really well”.
“But I think the single biggest shining light of the year has been this wonderful team that we put together,” Cain said. “I got very lucky.”
Cain explained that Gavan’s was operating as a “much leaner” business when he took over, with only a couple of employees. The business now employs 14 people.
Chrissy Hall of Bristol joined the team as a full-time bartender in April.
“Gavan’s has a very special spot in my heart,” she said, explaining that the previous owner, Nick Matechuk, was uncle to her best friend, who worked in the kitchen for over 15 years.
“It’s a second home for me,” she said, adding that it was “bittersweet” to see the previous owner go, but that working with Cain has been “wonderful.”
Hall said she was impressed with his plans for bringing new life to the bar, and by extension, the community.
“I grew up here, and this place was a vibrant, beautiful town. It was not the town, necessarily, that you see right now. We all want that back,” Hall said.
“Not everybody is from here. Not everybody has a past vested interest. But we all have a very present interest in making this work, and bringing community back.”
“Hashtag team Gavan’s!” she added with a grin.
‘Quyon was my Canada’
Cain, who lives in Ottawa, said there have been Cains in Quyon since the late 1800s.
“Because of all of the travelling around the world that we did as kids, we would get sent back to Quyon every summer to stay with my grandparents,” he said, explaining that his parents were diplomats.
“Quyon was kind of my ‘Canada’,” he said.
Cain worked in tech for a long time. He said that after selling his company two years ago, he began getting “a little bored.”
“Quyon is very special to me, and being in a position where I could do something fun and interesting, it felt like a really good investment,” Cain said.
“It is a very strong legacy. When you think about the value of Gavan’s . . . you can’t manufacture that.”
A ‘blueprint for greatness’
Gavan’s, which opened in 1946, has earned legendary status for its live music and raucous parties, earning its still often-used title, “gateway to the Pontiac,” as dubbed by original owner, Lennox Gavan.
“All my close friends live in Quyon, and Gavan’s has always been our hub,” said local regular Colby Richardson. “We always know people are gonna show up; people that we know, family, friends. It’s going to be a party, no matter what day of the week it is.”
Richardson said the heritage of the bar is a major draw.
“It’s the fact that our parents came here. Our older friends have come here. They grew up here and gave us so many stories, and told us all about how they lived their teenage years,” he said.
“We basically relived our parents’ lives at Gavan’s … Although it’s been renovated and the walls have been painted.”
Cain said taking on the responsibility for such a legacy establishment was “a little bit awesome, and a little bit terrifying.”
“On one hand it’s tough, because you want to preserve the legacy,” he said.
“But on the other hand you actually get to walk in some pretty great footsteps … it’s almost like there’s a blueprint for greatness already.”
Cain said he’s carefully deliberated any changes he’s made to the venue since taking ownership, asking himself, at each juncture, “does this match what this business is, what we want this business to be, and what our customers hope that this business will provide?”
“I think we really crushed the thing we needed to do first, which was to support the local community and show that we’re part of that,” Cain said. “As we move into next year, we’re going to start doing bigger and more things to bring people in from outside the region.”
Looking ahead
“As far as the business is concerned, we want to continue to amaze and delight people that live near us, with the staff and the food and the experience, to the wider region,” Cain said.
He said he hopes to see event-programming become an even more substantial part of the ongoing Gavan’s story, and through this for Gavan’s to become a destination for locals as well as for people outside the Pontiac.
“The more people that come here from somewhere else, the more, hopefully, it will be a catalyst for other businesses to open, [and] for people to not go past Quyon doing 120 on the way to Shawville.”
“I want to continue to be making decisions that, in benefiting [Gavan’s] business, are benefiting the town.”
Cain is already getting the ball rolling on this ambition.
Gavan’s will be hosting a Ladies Night fundraiser on Dec. 2, in support of women and children’s shelters in the region.
“We’ve already raffled off a set of really fancy Sens tickets, and raised a couple thousand,” he said.
“We’re going to do even more next weekend.”
Hockey tickets are Sens vs Habs.
“We’ve already exceeded our expectations,” Cain said.

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