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New owner brings passion, experience to The Walkerville Tavern

Friday, December 11, 2015

By: Natasha Marar, Business Advisor

Cara Kennedy, owner of The Walkerville Tavern

A veteran of the restaurant industry is finding success as a first-time small business owner.

Cara Kennedy, 47, has worked in food services for 33 years — most recently managing an Applebee’s restaurant in Windsor. But last month she took the leap into entrepreneurship by purchasing The Walkerville Tavern in Olde Walkerville.

“I didn’t mind working for other people, but it wasn’t mine,” said Kennedy, whose children helped convince her to take on the business. “They saw me working many long, long hours and not doing anything for myself. They saw this as an opportunity … Now I can put the same time, energy and passion into my own place.”

Kennedy learned of the opportunity to take over the established tavern from the previous owners, who initially wanted her to just manage the bar. “But they kept on asking. So instead I said, ‘Well, I’ll buy it.’ They said, ‘Seriously?’ And two hours later they sent me an offer.”

While starting a restaurant from the ground up can be costly, Kennedy said it was more affordable for her to purchase an existing business.

“I was leaning toward wanting to do something on my own … But what stopped me, unfortunately, was money. I always thought I had to have significant money in the bank to do it. As it turns out I’m doing it,” said Kennedy, adding, “Starting from scratch, the startup costs are astronomical. When you’re taking an existing restaurant or business, you’re taking what [the owners] have done and capitalizing on it. Part of the reason why I bought this is because they had done so well. It was ready for me to just turn the key and walk in.”

Kennedy is excited to run a business in Walkerville, the neighbourhood where she grew up. “It’s a small town within the city … everyone is just so friendly, genuine and kind. There’s no sense of competition.”

Regular patrons of The Walkerville Tavern can look forward to the same food, atmosphere and staff. Kennedy has made only minor changes to the menu, including introducing nachos and featuring local beer and wine from Brew, Walkerville Brewery and Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. In the future, she plans to expand the tavern’s Asian-inspired menu and offer sandwiches and salads for lunch. She also wants to branch out into catering next year.

The Small Business Centre worked with Kennedy to review accounting procedures, licensing and corporation registration for the business takeover.

“These are the things they don’t tell you when you’re running someone else’s business. I couldn’t have gotten where I had gotten, and so quickly, if I didn’t contact [the Small Business Centre] and didn’t have … everyone helping me along the way.”

Cara Kennedy is WindsorEssex Small Business Centre client. You too can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.