HAPPY BIRTHDAY ! 40 and 1 month, the age of maturity.
It’s a well known fact that the catering industry give thrill to financial institutions. The competition is high and the survival rate after nine years of activity is around 15% in Quebec.
But like any other industry, there are exceptions!
Some institutions stay afloat and resists for decades. This is the case of Café Krieghoff on Cartier Avenue, which celebrated its 40th anniversary on August 26th. The cafe is a part of the old café-bistrots of Quebec City.
These walls witnessed philosophical and political debates in the 80’s, and smelled the smoke of Gauloises, Gitanes and Marlboros cigarettes in the late 70’s.
It was the gathering place of musicians, poets, students, young lovers whispering while Jacques Brel filed the silences.
And there were professors of philosophy, political scientists, sociologists and politicians. Those were able to debate whole days and sleepless nights on the future of the world by revisiting it since its creation. If a customer commented on an article in the newspaper, the conversation flared up at the tables next door.
“And there were chess and backgammon players who spent their days here taking turns from one game to another,” recalls Kathy Rioux, the current owner who spent 30 years of her life in the Bistrot occupying all the positions, from the kitchen, to the management position under the former owner Claude Bourbonnais. And Jacques Brel still occupied the moment of silences in the discussions.
The cafe opened its doors right in front of the present building in 1977, where there is a sandwich shop today. Gaétan Nadeau decided that his coffee-shop would take the name of the famous Dutch painter Cornelius Krieghoff. A year later, the “café” was taken over by a French couple who moved it across the street, a place the Krieghoff never left since.
Towards 1979-1980, three businessmens, including Jean Lefebvre, acquired the coffee-shop before leaving the head position to Claude Bourbonnais a few years later. He will pursue the tradition of good long coffee and deep conversations between customers.
The place has never changed.
All the nooks and crannies have not changed since the beginning, except for the room added in the mid 90’s pushing the back terrace a little further. And if the menu has changed over the years, there are still the unmistakable croutons, the Krieghoff, the Croque-monsieur and the Croque-madame or even the cheesecake and blueberries.
The early customers grew old, but they’re still coming back. “Recently,” says Ms. Rioux, “I’ve seen a group of former clients, great-grandfather, grandfather, one of the children, one of the grandchildren and the newest child. It was five generations! ”
And she tells us about the regulars, like the twins Lise and Lison who are coming to eat their french fries and drink their coffee. And the regulars of the breakfasts, like politicians Pierre Moreau, Jacques Dupuis or Régis Labeaume and others on Parliament Hill who have their habits in Krieghoff.
Sometimes it could happen that two political meetings takes place in the Krieghoff at the same time, the Liberals in one corner and the Péquistes on the other, without any problems. Often, they don’t even know that they’re both here.
For the employees, besides Mrs. Rioux, several are still part of the coffee-shop. There is Anick, who has been here for 23 years, who will manage the new Krieghoff on Maguire while perpetuating the tradition; Gilles, in the kitchen for 14 years. And some waiters working between the kitchen and the tables for 10 or 12 years. Kathy Rioux, who integrated this family 30 years ago wants to make it last, that’s why her 23-year-old son works at the café, too. The family spirit lives on!
The Krieghoff is still popular over the years. The two terraces are well occupied during the summer, as well as the 200 seats inside.
The lunch services on the weekend are always full whole year round. “It’s not uncommon to serve 800 people on Saturdays and Sundays. These are good days,” says Rioux.
And how do we know it’s a good day?
“We see it with the paintings at the entrance. With all the people coming and going, the frames are all in a wrong position. That’s how we know we had a good and busy day”, laughs Kathy Rioux.
40 years old, it is the maturity
Usually people celebrate the 5 years, 10 years, 25 years of a company. But 40 years, we don’t see that often. For the owner of Krieghoff, Kathy Rioux, 40 years for a restaurant or a human being is the age of maturity. At 40, the human knows what he wants, knows what he is worth and where he wants to go.
“It’s the same thing for the Krieghoff,” she said. “And I didn’t want to miss this, without knowing if I’d get to see the 50th”, she said in a joking way. So we organize a big family celebration, with magicians for the children, sparkling wine and small bites, and music. People will stand and we’ll end up with a musical after-work party! ”
She wants to let the whole region of Quebec know the atmosphere of the Krieghoff. This is one of the reasons for the new cafe-bistrot on Maguire and the presence of Petit Krieghoff at the Cité-Verte.