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Quidi Vidi Village offers a taste of fishing community life in the city.
Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village.
Breakfast skillets and other hearty, earthy dishes at Mallard Cottage are made from scratch with local ingredients.
Todd Perrin behind the bar at Mallard Cottage. Of his and Stephen Lee’s developments in Quidi Vidi Village, he says: “I look at these things more in terms of the profound effect you can have on your community and what we're going to build and what we're going to leave behind.”
The groaning dessert table at Mallard Cottage.
ST. JOHN’S — On most days during the height of tourist season, Quid Vidi Village is as busy as Water or Duckworth streets.
But it’s not the Artist Plantation, Quidi Vidi Brewing Co., or Todd Perrin and Stephen Lee’s Mallard Cottage and associated Inn across the narrow road that bring the throngs of tourists to the idyllic, postcard-perfect fishing village.
They’re already there.
“Quidi Vidi is a destination on its own, we’re just the guys selling the ice cream,” Perrin says of the drumbeat they’ve held since opening in 2013.
“Mallard and the Inn and the renovations that the brewery have made... they’re not attempts to generate more business, they're attempts to capture the traffic that’s already here.”
That attitude has served them well over the first half-decade of their bold tourism and hospitality venture, resulting in the 70-odd seat restaurant in the meticulously restored heritage property becoming one of “the places to go” in St. John’s for locals and visitors alike.
The way they talk about the village and what they foresee as their role in its future, it’s clear that Lee and Perrin have more than money invested in the gut. Their hearts are in it, too.
“I look at these things more in terms of the profound effect you can have on your community and what we’re going to build and what we’re going to leave behind,” says Perrin.
Their next project in the gut is hardly a secret; the long-awaited redevelopment of the former Flake House property at the water’s edge across the road from the Cottage.
It’s been a few years since they and their business partners purchased the site, and two years since the city granted approval for a 5,200-square foot building, and over a year since the old building went down.
But after many iterations — and the scattered headache figuring out a plan to deal with the aging and dilapidated wharf infrastructure any investment would sit atop — the plan is coming together and it appears their vision for the prime waterfront real estate will become a reality as early as next fall.
That vision is not so much what they want to see there, but what they think should go there and what they know definitely shouldn’t.
“Our commitment to that piece of property is to develop it in the same way that we’ve developed Mallard Cottage and the Inn,” explains Perrin. “We want to maximize the economic opportunity, we want to maximize the esthetic of the village and we want to give tourists something they can be happy and proud to look at it, we can be proud to work there, and the people that live in the area can be proud to say that they're neighbours.”
They’re not just thinking about their own bottom line, they’re as concerned — if not more so, presently — in building community value.
“We want to give people, customers and public alike, a place to stroll along the wharf, which is not possible really anywhere else in St. John’s, and give them a bit of relationship to the water and thoughtful landscaping,” says Lee.
“As opposed to just throwing buildings on big pieces of land, we want to have outdoor space and thoughtfully landscape some green to accompany.”
Unlike the cake table at Mallard’s famous brunch, details are what the final product will be are scant. Any building will house a restaurant, one capable of expanding and retracting with the ebb and flow of tourist season. There’s also talk of a retail component.
“We’re awash with ideas,” admits Lee. “It’s just choosing the right one.
“Not just doing the first thing that we thought of. It was a good idea, it made sense economically and it still does, but we’re just trying to home in on what the best opportunity is for this space that makes sure it’s in line with the area that we’re building into.”
Another iron in the fire
Believe it or not, Perrin and Lee are building into another area, albeit far removed from the village. They, along with some business partners, purchased the old Healy’s Pharmacy property on Water Street west. Construction is well underway to turn the heritage property into a multi-faceted building that will serve chiefly as administrative offices and production facility — kitchen, bakery and butchery — while also operating as a café and small restaurant. That enterprise should be up and running by late winter or early spring.
“Everything we’re doing is kind of putting another spoke in a wheel that will help make all of our operations a little more efficient,” says Lee.
“We’ve taken some of our guts that we require for Quidi Vidi Village and we’re putting them in another neighbourhood so that we can build less on the waterfront and be a part of the revitalization of Water west, and that whole area.”
It might sound saccharine to some, but Perrin insists he’s “serious as a heart attack” when he talks about the legacy he and Lee hope to leave behind.
“We need to be able to sleep at night and we’re able to do that because we feel like we’re doing something good. Not only in terms of having a good cup of coffee or a nice bottle of wine, but something that we can be proud of, something that my daughter can be proud of.
“It should get done, it will get done, and we’re going to make sure that it gets done so that not only takes into consideration the economics, but also leaves something behind that people can be happy with.”