The Sucklings hope keeping it in the family leads to good things in the Sunshine City.
David Suckling, his father, Chris Suckling, and stepmother, Hermie Baldado, officially entered the Orillia dining scene earlier this week by opening Hermie’s Diner on West Street South.
Taking the spot that once housed Al and Jan’s Diner in a south-end strip mall just off Highway 12, David Suckling said they are ironing out any kinks this week with a small-scale opening.
“We decided to open Monday on the long weekend to see what the crowds were like,” Suckling said, noting he personally prefers slow and steady restaurant openings to large, splashy affairs.
“We’re kind of doing a slower opening with the first week for all the hiccups to get worked out. Apparently, there’s a lineup on weekends so we want to be ready for that.”
But arriving at the location was very much happenstance.
“We have family in Orillia and were here visiting,” he said, adding they stopped in when they saw the vacancy sign and peeked inside.
“This is such an amazing location.”
While David serves as the diner’s general manager, his father and stepmother Baldado co-own the business, but mainly work in the back to ensure the kitchen runs smoothly.
“We have a tight-knit group,” David said of the six staffers who are working at the restaurant on any given day.
They spent about two months renovating the restaurant from its oldies theme to a modern diner feel with wood accents and vibrant red booths and stools.
“We modernized it,” he said. “There are no more blue tables; they’re nice hardwood ones now.”
The restaurant also features large, framed photos from Baldado’s native Philippines.
Hermie’s Diner serves traditional diner plates with some original innovations using farm fresh ingredients.
“We have enough seating for 65 people,” Suckling said, noting there are 12 booths, five traditional hardwood tables as well as bar seating.
They’re open most days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
While the hours might seem long, Chris Suckling said he and his wife, who worked as a personal support worker, are used to it.
Chris joked: “We’re used to working 15 to 16 hour days, so a 13-hour day is nothing.”
And this isn’t David’s first restaurant venture. He and a friend opened the Hollandaise Diner on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue five years ago.
“Hollandaise is running smoothly, so I’m here permanently,” he said. “It’s like a dream.”
But while they’re relocating to the region from Toronto, David said his family don’t consider themselves city people.
“We’re originally from Kawartha Lakes,” he said. “We’re not born and bred city folk.”
Suckling said everybody they’ve met in Orillia has been so positive and welcoming.
“It reaffirms our decision,” he said. “This is such a nice change of pace. It’s a really positive change from the city.”