LORD’S COVE, N.L.
The coffee is always on at a little roadside store in Lord’s Cove and owner Phyllis Lockyer is always ready for a chat.
And she’s got quite a story to tell herself.
Seated next to a window in the café, watching large waves roll to shore, Lockyer says it was a longing to be home that inspired her to open her own business.
She grew up in nearby Point May and worked for 15 years in the fishery before heading back to school and then west to Alberta.
Lockyer and her husband, Cyril, were among the casualties of the 1993 south coast cod moratorium — that came one year after the northern cod moratorium.
After re-training, the Lockyers headed out to Alberta; for 10 years she worked as an insulator.
But the leaving wasn’t easy.
“With three grandkids then, (of) course I’d leave home — (my) husband wouldn’t speak to me until we got to the airport, because I’d just be in tears, and he’d always say, ‘Phyllis you don’t have to go back.’”
Once she returned to work she’d be fine, but the thought of leaving her family behind was always upsetting.
Then, last August, she returned to the Burin Peninsula and opened The Pantry,a roadside café featuring traditional Newfoundland food like fish cakes, baked beans and toutons.
Lockyer also operates a pub called The Cellar, as well as a convenience store called the Nan and Pop’s Shop out of the same location.
A turning point for Lockyer was when her son and his family moved from the Avalon Peninsula back to Lord’s Cove. That was when she started wondering what she could do to create a job for herself close to home.
Lockyer told The Southern Gazette she always had a dream of opening a café of her own. She knew of a building in the small community that had been vacant for years, and approached the owner about buying it.
But he didn’t want to sell.
“Lo and behold one day he just said, ‘Yup, we’ll sell if you still want it’, and that’s how it all began,” she said.
Lockyer and her husband started working on the building while they were between jobs, with the intent to return to Alberta if they got a call to go back.
Over time the building started to take shape.
“How many walls did the husband put up and take down, oh my God,” she laughed.
Lockyer also pondered what would happen to the business during times that the café was slow, wondering if it would be a seasonal business.
“So we came up with the idea of a little pub,” she explained. “We never call it a bar because we planned on it being a gathering place where people can come in and enjoy a chat and a yarn; thank God that’s exactly how it worked out.”
Operating her own business was all new for Lockyer.
“I didn’t know how to punch the buttons on the cash register,” she laughed. “I opened and I thought, ‘Oh we’ll see a couple in the café, see a couple in the store, so I’ll learn as I’m going.’
“We opened our doors in the café and it’s like pouff, we got people waiting. We’re all new, all learning and though we thought we were going to learn together. . . we didn’t have time. So, it’s like pull up your panties girl and get this act in gear.”
Lockyer often works long hours. However, she doesn’t consider it as a job, but something she loves to do.
It’s been a learning curve for Lockyer, whose role in the business has also changed.
“I was supposed to be the main waitress here,” she said. “That came to a stop pretty soon.
“I used to come out and talk to people, so if I was down there (she motions to a table at the end of the room) I could never get back to the kitchen with that order. By the time I got back to the kitchen the girls used to be livid with me, so I’m not allowed to take orders no more.”
Thankful for support
Lockyer feels blessed by the amount of support she has received.
“Without the family of course you could not do it,” she said. “We’ve only got one son. He’s been awesome. He took on the duties of doing the tables and whatever mom needed ... and of course (my) husband, he’s just there for me in every which way.”
She’s also been overwhelmed by the support from the community.
“If you haven’t got the people behind you in a community, nothing’s going to work, but they’ve been awesome,” Lockyer said with a laugh, giving kudos to fellow Lord's Cove resident Margaret Mary, known locally for her eagerness to promote the community. “I mean what other publicity would you need.
“I would never be able to afford to pay for the publicity that women gives us, she’s so in love with her community.”