By Jacob Hoytema –
By looking at it, you wouldn’t have known that Hintonburger was closing down.
When Kitchissippi Times sat down with owner and operator Tom Williams, he had exactly one week left at his location at the corner of Somerset and Bayswater, where they’ve been for not even two years. Despite the impending move, the custom-made dark-stained benches were still in place, Tom was discussing plans for fundraisers within the final week, and was even having new signage painted on the windows.
“We’ll continue to always work in the community no matter what Hintonburger is doing or what size we are, or where we are — we’ll always kind of have that connection,” says Tom.
New, temporary, window art directs customers to stay tuned with Hintonburger on social media so that they can stay up to speed with the restaurant in the months ahead.
This location had been Hintonburger’s third in less than a decade of business. Despite the frequent moves, the business has a strong local presence, having kept a stable popularity among customers and a continued visibility at community events.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of long hours, and we’ve had some tough years with sales… but what kind of makes it worth it is the community breakfasts, meeting people, and just being part of this community,” Tom explains. “This community has been so good to us in the beginning, it’s always been very supportive of local and independent businesses.”
They took over their current spot from Vibe Lounge, which was forced to close. Vibe’s food license was suspended in December 2016 after Leslie Mwakio, 17, was found shot in an SUV nearby on Bayswater Avenue near Laurel Street. He was later pronounced dead in hospital.
Tom had hoped to make the venue into a more open, community-geared space, and is indeed sticking with this focus until the very end: with just a few days before close, Hintonburger hosted an event for Connaught Public School as well as a paint-night fundraiser to support autism.
In a Facebook post explaining the move, Tom said that beginning in the “early days” of being at the location, they experienced break-ins and had to hire nighttime security. He also described an ongoing dispute with their landlord. All together, he simply says that it was time to find a place that fits them better.
As things stand right now, there are no concrete plans for a new location — only that there will be one eventually. Tom said there are discussions in the works for selling out of a food truck in the meantime. He also mentioned the possibility of selling food remotely through delivery services like Skip the Dishes, even if he doesn’t have a storefront.
Hintonburger also does some catering services, notably with bi-monthly pancake breakfasts for the Parkdale Food Centre. Tom said that those services will continue, as they’ve found a space to keep running the catering in the interim.
It’s been 6 years of sharing, building, strategizing, doing everything we can think of to create a community that is healthy with neighbours who feel valued. You have walk beside us on this journey. We still have much to do together! https://t.co/bGyMVjdiUi
— Parkdale Food Centre (@ParkdaleFood) February 17, 2019
“We have no doubt that there are great things in your future,” the post said.
This is an optimism that Tom seems to share. “I keep getting caught up in that, saying last time, but it’s not,” Tom says of their pre-closure fundraiser. “We’ll be back, we’ll be doing more for sure.”