Sidney is home to two businesses celebrating major milestones this year. Mary’s Bleue Moon Restaurant will celebrate its 80th year of continuous operation, while Cottons and Blues, a signature boutique for blue jeans and casual wear, will celebrate its 40th anniversary. The retail and hospitality industries are challenging businesses so these milestones carry significant resonance. The Peninsula News Review asked the owner of each how they do it.
Nicola Politano, co-owner of Mary’s Bleue Moon Restaurant, still can’t figure out why the “Bleue” in the restaurant name is spelt the way it is. The business began in 1939 when the Chapman family created a destination for customers seeking a slice of great, homemade pie and other sweet offerings. It also catered to air force personnel stationed across the street during the war. Today it continues to offer a fantastic menu with fair pricing and generous portions. This is what makes diners keep returning, Politano says.
The top three items on the menu are fish and chips, liver and onions, and the seafood chowder and seafood medley, an item that some diners drive from Victoria to enjoy. Mary’s has a tiny kitchen and Politano says she’s continuously amazed how the cooks are able to prepare food so fast in such a small space.
“Our best-kept secret is our staff,” she says without hesitation. “Three of our staff members have been with us for over 20 years, and more than six have been with us a decade. We’re lucky because a good restaurant cannot survive without good staff – and we have great staff.”
Politano works nights and weekends, so much of her socializing happens on the job. “Our staff is like a family. We’ve watched each other grow up. So many of our customers are regulars that when we see them, it’s like catching up with old friends. And there are many friendships that have developed over the years between staff and customers,” she reflects, “even a couple of marriages.”
One fact most regulars don’t know about Mary’s is that the band Old Black Rum had its genesis at the restaurant. “When our live music night originated 15 years ago, a few of our Newfie customers decided to start bringing instruments in on Thursday nights for a jam session,” she recalls. Look out for tunes by Old Black Rum the first Saturday of each month.
Politano grew up in the restaurant business as her parents, Ross and Val Clark, worked in the industry for three decades. It’s a tough lifestyle with long hours, but she admits to loving it. “The customers motivate me,” she admits. “Each shift I try to ensure that our customers are leaving happy because they are what keeps our doors open. Since my husband Mike Politano and I, along with our chef Adam Hill, bought into Mary’s over six years ago, we couldn’t imagine doing anything else. If we had an opportunity to do it all over, we’d definitely do it again.”
You can’t keep a business open for a long period unless you love your work, and your customers love it, too.
That’s true of Sidney’s Cotton and Blues boutique, which began in 1979 under the leadership of Kathy Clarke. Its present owner, Anna Savage, was a business partner and employee for more than 10 years before purchasing it in November 2017 and she loves her job, she says.
“We specialize in jeans that fit,” she explains of the secret to the boutique’s success. “We continually bring new brands into the store while always making sure our clothes are stylish and a great fit. And our focus is always the casual look that Sidney women know and love.”
Savage says her fabulous, loyal customers keep her motivated, energized and engaged in her work. When she’s not picking new items to stock her store you’ll find Savage on horseback, walking her dogs or spending time with her husband.