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A year and a bit on, two Fonthill newcomers thriving

Glen Sisak and Zenia Winnicki, at PharmaChoice, and Peter Moore at Peter Piper's. VOICE PHOTOS

BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
Special to the VOICE

Still piping

The only thing that changes faster than Pelham itself is its restaurants. Just over a year ago, when Peter Moore opened Peter Piper’s Pub House, Zest, Moku’s, and Pub on the Hill all still stood in Fonthill. All three have since been shuttered and reopened under new names with new cuisines by new owners.

“That’s the way the industry is,” said Moore last week. “But we’re very happy with how things have gone this past year.”

Upon opening, Moore joked that while a traditional publican lives above the pub, he was only burning the candle at both ends before returning to his home each night. Now, though, he and his wife are looking for a manager to take over some of the workload.

“This is right on schedule. I thought it would take about a year for the business to grow to where we could take on a manager,” he said.

Moore said that the two are very grateful for the support the community has given them over the past year, describing the customers, the staff, and the surrounding community as their restaurant family.

“The community has been good to us, and we’ve tried to be good back,” said Moore. “We jumped at the chance to support the community centre and other Town events. Part of that is good business sense, sure, but it’s about being a part of this place.”

Even the abundance of other eateries nearby doesn’t bother him.

“The competition is a good thing. It’s how you can compare yourself to other places—you can go in and see what they gave, and that can give you ideas for what you can do. Not to replicate, of course, but to come up with new things.”

Some of Peter Piper’s staples that Moore is most proud of are the regular specials. He began, upon opening, with a five-dollar burger day, but has since expanded to deals six days a week.

“Being in Pelham, we have many residents on fixed-incomes,” said Moore. “And those people should be able to get out, go someplace, and socialize.”

Moore also said that he likes how diverse the crowds can be at the pub, attributing this at least in part to the live music often on display. There are performances every Friday, and jazz on Saturdays.

“I don’t think there are any other places in Pelham that do regular live music,” he said. “We’ve even had open-mic nights.” Moore denied that he himself had gotten up on stage.

“The only song I could sing is the Muppets one. You know, ‘Doo doo doo…Mahna, Mahna.’ I stay behind the bar where I belong.”

Despite his aversion to performance, Moore did try out his radio voice just before Christmas, recording a 15-second advertisement to be played on three local radio stations.

“We advertise every week in the Voice, and that works. Advertising is key. And there was a fire sale on the radio spot, so I thought, ‘Sure, let’s try it.’ And we’ve had lots of people come in a say that they heard me on the radio.”

In the coming months, Moore is looking forward to seeing how the changes to the town affect its look—and his restaurant.

“It’s not like I see all the new people moving in as dollar signs,” he said. “It’s about how our town is and who’s here. I’ll be interested to see how much of the small-town feel we can keep as we get bigger.”

With an all-new Town Council elected in the fall, Moore said that he has high hopes for them.

“I’ve gotten to meet almost all of them, and they all seem very competent, very eager to get to work,” he said. “And that’s good. I want to see what’s going to happen. We plan on being here.”

Still prescribing

Two days after Christmas, there was a television sitting on the floor of the consulting room at PharmChoice Pharmacy in East Fonthill. The resident pharmacist, Glen Sisak, looked at it forlornly while opening the door for a guest. It wasn’t new.

“We’re constantly moving things around in here,” he said. “Reorganize. What can we put up there? What could go here?”

In the year and half since Sisak and Zenia Winnicki, his pharmacy technician and partner, opened the place, they’ve gone through myriad configurations of shelving in the front-of-store, a compact space that demands every square inch be put to use.

“First we had the second shelf sitting on its side. Then it was upright. Then it was in front of the window, but that didn’t really work. People didn’t buy those things—maybe they thought that it wasn’t part of the store,” said Sisak.

Whatever configuration they’ve settled on, though, seems to be working.

“When we opened, we were told to take our worst estimate for sales, and halve it,” said Sisak. “Now we’ve doubled what we were doing before. That’s pretty good.”

The building’s owner, noting the increasing foot traffic, has been asking if they need more room to expand.

“That’s landlordese for: ‘Can I rent you more space?’” said Sisak. “I say: ‘Not yet.’”

For the first year of PharmaChoice’s existence, up until this past summer, Sisak and Winnicki were merely the operators. This changed in the spring when an opportunity arose to buy out the owner.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” said Winnicki. “We really love doing this, just trying to give the best service we can give to our patients.”

Sisak and Winnicki, who both previously worked at Shoppers Drug Mart, used to joke that running their own place wasn’t stressful because it wasn’t their money.

“That’s not true anymore,” said Sisak. “But it’s not really so stressful. I like it.”

Now, the two say, going it all on their own gives them complete liberty to run the pharmacy exactly how they want to. Their vision now is much the same as it was when they opened in 2017: a true old-fashioned drug store. When patients refer to it as such, Sisak takes it with pride, as he said back then.

“When I was younger and doing work on my house, I thought that I always had to go all the way to the Home Depot to get supplies,” said Sisak. “But one time, a piece of my underground hose was cut, and I went to Beamer’s instead,” referring to the hardware store in downtown Fonthill.

“One of the guys there—who’s probably worked there forever—brought me down into the basement and cut off a foot of the hose I needed, added two clamps, and sent me off. That’s what we want to offer here.”

One of the first things the pair did when they took over ownership was to erect a large sign on the front of the building, and remain open for longer hours. The physician’s office in the shared space has adopted later hours too, and as long as the doctors are there, so too is the pharmacy open. All of this certainly hasn’t been kind to their vacation schedule.

“We do 30-hour vacations,” said Sisak, who takes one day off a week—Sunday— with Winnicki. “It’s too bad that Christmas wasn’t on a Monday this year—then we really could have gone wild.”

“We got almost as far north as North Bay in the summer, kayaking, and as far south as the Finger Lakes,” said Sisak.

Jarring himself from visions of vacations, Sisak went back to re-organizing.

“I think I used to do all of this because I was bored,” he said. “Now it’s busy. We do it to make more room and stock more things.”

Winnicki pointed to the collection of mobility aids by the door.

“We want to get more crutches. Just today someone came in looking for one of those handles you can put in your bathtub,” she said. Sisak nodded.

“That’ll be an update,” he said. “But the first update is: ‘We’re still here.’”

 

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