Located at the â€śdark end of Queen Streetâ€ť as the owner put it, sits Saintâ€™s Restaurant, preparing to celebrate 50 years of serving home-style meals and its famous chili dogs.
On a special Sunday, Oct. 8, the St. Pierre family will offer its appreciation by hosting a customer appreciation day from noon to 6 p.m. The event will feature raffles, games, live music and special giveaways for the first 300 people.
In an era of diminishing family-owned restaurants, Saintâ€™s has muscled its way into comfortable prominence. It borders the Southington-Plainville line, but when it comes to popularity there is no boundary. The longevity of Saintâ€™s contradicts the premise that Queen Street - with its 62 eateries - leaves no room for nostalgic families selling shepherdâ€™s pie, grinders, meatloaf dinners, fresh burgers, fried chicken and clams, desserts and even breakfast seven days a week.
The family of the late Don St. Pierre is well-known for customer relations. Son John and his wife Claudia purchased the business from Don in 1998 and have since incorporated their children one by one into helping out. But several years ago 28-year-old son Tyler stepped forward to work full-time and offer his expertise after years of learning the hospitality trade, earning a business degree from Cornell University.
This is a family who admires what their dad and mother Joan built from a small hotdog stand into a comfortable family-style restaurant, attracting patrons from a wide area including nearby Plainville where the St. Pierreâ€™s were notable citizens. Don served as an elected state representative and both he and Joan were Plainville council members. Thus, it was imperative that the tradition of greeting people and serving the best food possible continued.
The late Don St. Pierre bought the hotdog stand from Fran Verderame, at the time, an already popular window-serving eatery, as an enclosed garage-like structure. Soon after, Saintâ€™s had built its own, comfortable counter and booth service restaurant just feet away.
The October appreciation day is very important and has been for years, said Tyler St. Pierre. â€śItâ€™s going to be a special day for special people. Patrons have been extremely loyal to Saintâ€™s and my grandfather was a unique person and now my parents have worked hard to keep the tradition alive.â€ť
Family restaurant owners with children are destined, at several times over the years, to have their children working as kitchen help, waiters, counter persons or cashiers. Tyler is one of them who started at age 16 and garnered respect and admiration for his grandparents. Today, the young man has instituted new salads and desserts that customers love. â€śHeâ€™s done a great job with that part of our menu,â€ť boasts mom Claudia. Sheâ€™s no rookie in the business having worked at the former Giovanniâ€™s Italian restaurant on Main Street years ago.
The family is proud of its charitable donations especially to the Petit Family Foundation, long-time friends of the St. Pierreâ€™s. During the annual Petit Family Foundation Road Race in Plainville, Saintâ€™s buys hundreds of hotdogs and offers them to runners at no charge but with a donation bucket on the counter with all proceeds going to benefit the foundation.
The family is also sensitive about providing good employees. â€śDad used to find his waitresses by going to Plainville High and taking the recommendations from school officials,â€ť said John. Southington isnâ€™t far from the hearts of the family.
Although they proudly proclaim loyalty to Plainville athletic teams since Don was an outstanding player during the heyday of PHS football, numerous family donations have trickled into Southington.
The passing of patriarch Don St. Pierre eight years ago devastated patrons. They missed his presence coming out of the kitchen wearing his infamous white, full apron. Caricatures of Don are frequently seen on the walls with chili sauce stains on his apron. A kind man who appreciated each and every customer, Donâ€™s legacy inspired the family to remain in the food business. Today, his widow occasionally visits and offers a strong presence of what was, but reminds patrons of what is today.
Saintâ€™s stands tall among the chains of fast-food places as it now gets ready for another party, thanking customers for 50 long years of success. Patrons may also get a chance to try a secret chili recipe that Don created when Queen Street still had cows and sheep grazing in its wide open fields.