3 minute read

DON’T MISS “The Grist”

“After 186 years, brewing is finally back to St. David’s along with a relaxed eatery in the main barn.” With almost three decades in the hospitality industry under his belt, you would think that retirement was on the horizon. Thank goodness for the Niagara Region that Rob Begin reconsidered his plans. Rob cut his teeth in the business with a pizzeria franchise in St. Catharines some 28 years ago. From there, he opened a very successful restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake which he ran with his wife, Danielle, for 6 wonderful years, providing an authentic and different spin on traditional fare. As fate would have it, one of Rob’s regular guests one day offered to buy the restaurant. Not one to miss an opportunity, a deal was signed, and Rob and Danielle were ready for the next chapter in their lives.

For the next two and a half decades, Rob enjoyed a tremendous career working with a bunch of great wineries and breweries throughout the province of Ontario. “It was a beautiful life, but the travelling was intense and sometimes difficult,” he says. “I decided to retire from that life, but I still wasn’t quite ready to leave the industry behind.”

Then there was the “barn”. Originally owned by the Fedorkow family, it was used as the family farm’s packing shed and never seemed to be for sale.

“We have spent a lifetime driving past the “barn” as we affectionately call it, and have always been fascinated with the look, the area, and the potential. In our opinion, the “barn” is an invaluable piece of St. David’s history that needed to be maintained and rehabilitated back to its former glory in a new and exciting way.”

The rest is history – Rob contacted the owner, told him of his dream, and two days later he and Danielle purchased the property. “I believe in fate and that things are meant to happen if they will,” Rob says. “I think the owner was just waiting for the right time and the person with the right vision to come along. In conversation, I found out that he lived right next door to me when I was a kid on Line 3. It was the right opportunity at the right time for all of us.”

The restaurant business is a tough one, something that Rob knows very well. But his vision was to create a spot that was going to separate itself from other restaurants – and The Grist was born! Rob doesn’t mince words when he speaks of the formula for being successful in this very competitive business. “Businesses don’t fail. It’s the people running them that fail. You have to have your heart and head in it 100 percent all of the time in order to survive. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you will be successful despite the odds sometimes being against you.”

The Grist is successful for many reasons – the food, the service, the beverages, the atmosphere – but the one constant there is Rob. He is on site all of the time. He attributes his success to the fact that he spends 17 hours a day at the restaurant and two years later, even amidst Covid restrictions, he’s still standing.

Rob prides himself on knowing his clients like he knows his own family. “Our guests know that we care about them and that we are willing to spend all of these hours in service to them.”

“There was no way we were going to tear down the barn. We wanted to retain what was there through our development.” He goes on to joke, “It probably cost us twice as much money and twice as much work to make her pretty again. We decided to blow our kids’ inheritance!”

The touches that both he and Danielle put all over the restaurant with their eclectic décor make the place unique in its design. “The design was all crafted by us,” Rob adds.

Now it’s time for the eternal question asked any brew pub owner…What’s your favorite brew?

“It’s the Italian Pilsner with a play on my family name for its name – Where to Begin – because this is where it began.” At $8 a pint, it’s a delicious introductory beer for those new to craft brews. Rob goes onto explain The Grist’s brewing philosophy – “We are aiming for unique brews, but we want to keep our beers ‘dad beers’ (with a very loving referral). All of our beers are easy to drink as none of them are over the top. People want to enjoy a beer that doesn’t have too much of a profile so that its taste doesn’t become too overwhelming.” thegrist.ca

This philosophy extends to the variety of food on the menu, with something to please even the fussiest of palates. “We focus on simple stuff because for the most part, people have simple taste. They want good food that is consistent.” Rob goes on to explain that he never hired an actual chef as his mission was to have everyone involved with the recipes and the menu – a genuine team/family endeavour.

With his love for and commitment to his guests along with his penchant for creativity, there is no doubt that The Grist will be a staple in the region for a very long time.