Every summer, when J.C. Mitchell Insurance hosts a Business After Five for Barrie Chamber members, Elaine and Nadine Carr are flipping burgers for hungry participants. Great burgers.
They flip them again for a fundraiser for the Seasons Centre. And again for United Way. They hold Dollar Days for Big Brothers. In fact, Nadine and Elaine have been giving themselves and their fabulous hamburgers to Barrie charities since 1993.
That’s the year they took their savings and bought the 11th Licks franchise, still the most northerly location. Denise Meehan had started the Licks franchise in Toronto’s Beach community and she was pretty fussy about who opened a Licks store.
While the Carr girls (who hail from Owen Sound) were grappling with a difficult landlord (who rented their space to them and to another restauranteur simultaneously) Denise was coaching them into decor, fixtures, fittings, and food essential for a Licks store.
They opened their Bayfield St. location in September, 1993 and there they have remained for 14 years… an achievement by fast food standards! They also have a new landlord!
While the sisters were figuring out who was good at what, they called to see if they could help Big Brothers with their curling bonspiel. “We thought we’d give them some product, or gift certificates or something. But no, they wanted us to enter a team! We’d never curled in our lives. We held our first Dollaar Days and sold burgers for a dollar to raise the $400 to enter a team.”
Nadine and Elaine still curl once a year… at the Big Brothers Bonspiel!
But Dollar Days are a regular fundraiser at Licks and many Barrie charities are the happy recipients of their corporate generosity.
Their community giving was a regular commitment right from the start. It introduces their product to people, it benefits charities in the region, and it gives Elaine and Nadine a great feeling about their store and their staff.
Nadine says it all started when “marketing guru Jeff Walther (no, not the diamond guy!) of B101 helped us launch our Dollar Days.” He showed them that doing Dollar Days would bind their community to them in corporate gratitude. And, it’s proven to be true.
The sisters regularly schedule ‘giving’ into their corporate activities. They support the Barrie tiathlon in August, their busiest month. They do a lot with Big Brothers. They help the Civitan Club and do Dollar Days for Seasons. They give a burger in exchange for a new toy to help Christmas Cheer. And sometimes they plunk a banana split down in front of a customer just to see the look of surprise!
These two women and their team of young managers and grille experts are committed as much to their community as to their business. They estimate they have given away truckloads ofo hamburgers over the years.
Elaine and Nadine were also the first drive-through Licks location and they spend time with other Licks owners who are developing a drive-through.
It’s a sign of a great business when it can boast long term staff and the Licks girls can sure do that! Cathy Hicks has worked there since they opened in 1993. Manager Cailin White is a seven-year veteran and Sheila Hill is a five year staffer.
“We try to hire the right personality because of the spirit we put forward. Students are fantastic. We have fun, all the time! We have fun at our staff meetiings… we play games, we have things like Licks Idol. At any given time there are 25 employees at the Bayfield Licks, and the ranks swell to 50 in the summer. We find students are great. They’re the fun part!”
While the team is busy preparing and selling burgers and assorted meals, they also sell a lot of product from the shelves. They used to just make the burgers, wrap them in cellophane, put them on a tray and into a little bag… cottagers stopped by by the hundreds to buy their product. But now the Licks franchise packages and produces product for retail sale… burgers, ice cream, sauce… it’s all available to take home.
Nadine says as two sisters (they were 36 and 31 when they bought the franchise) they get along really well. “We’re a perfect match,” she says. “We’ve had only one fight and neither of us can remember what it was about.”
“Elaine organizes the staff. She identifies their strengths and makes sure we’re keeping them happy,” says Nadine, who is much happier doing public relations, marketing, promotional activities.
“We’re both really happy and we’ve made a good living from our store. It’s a good living and it’s really community based, which is wonderful. Elaine and I wouldn’t have it so good if it weren’t for our staff. They’re great at managing the team, too.”
What’s the best part? “The customers are the best part! Meeting people. And working with all the kids. Giving to the community and living on a two-way street as the community gives back.”
The sisters love Barrie, and enjoy what they do. And Barrie loves them right back.
It’s a perfect blend of win-win-win!