By Janet Davies
Bryan and Nick Rebolledo are brothers, business partners and co-owners of Crepe Escape, The County’s only creperie located in The Armory in downtown Picton. It’s a real family business that runs with the help of Mom and friends and siblings, but Bryan and Nick will likely be hiring this summer because it turns out a LOT of people love crepes. He explains how their business has grown from a shared dream that took some unexpected turns. “We grew up in Ajax and moved to The County 10 years ago when we were 17 and 18, just out of high school and we knew nothing about Prince Edward County. Our father is Mexican and we had lived in Mexico for a year before coming back home to Canada, and it was pure chance we came here. Our mother had always wanted to live in the country and was looking online for places to rent when she found a house in Cherry Valley. The house was cute, the price was right, my stepdad got a job at the Picton Gazette, so we just went for it. I don’t think I’d been east of Ajax before that, except for going to Kingston once!
WHY A CREPERIE?
Our family has a bit of history running restaurants. My father was born and raised in Mexico City and his family had a restaurant there. He and his brothers moved to Cancun in the 1970s and opened a restaurant before it became such a busy tourist place, and the restaurant is still there. My brother and I wanted to open a Mexican restaurant in Belleville, but Chilangos, which is great, beat us to it, so we thought again. We wanted to do something different, and we had grown up eating fantastic crepes our mother makes. She worked as a nanny in France and learned from the best. I learned how to make them from her and used to whip them up for my friends – and they all loved them. So we decided on a crepe place. There wasn’t one in the area, and we discovered start-up costs would be fairly low. In fact we bought a little food cart to start and approached some businesses in Picton about where to set up, and The Armory struck us as a perfect with the big space out front. Our mother spoke with the owner, but he thought it would be even better in a space he had inside. It was just garage space at the time, but he was very encouraging and enthusiastic and we talked to the authorities and inspectors to see if it was allowed, and yes it was. We sold the food cart, signed a four-month lease and opened in June 2017 in what was a tiny space, about half of what we have now. But we did so well last summer we knew we could expand, and we spent the winter renovating. Now we’ve got double the space and a two-year lease. Nick and I had hoped we could progress to a real restaurant in a few years, then this happened so fast and it’s fantastic. I can’t imagine being restricted to a food cart now! We can offer comfortable seating and a whole lot more including being warm and cozy which was pretty important this March because it was freezing! Our regulars were really happy to see us re-open so early.
It’s great to have local clientele. Summer is good but you’ve got to have a good local business, and we have met so many great people. It seems like a lot of people work on Main Street and want to step out for lunch! Lunch business is brisker than dinner right now, because we do a good quick lunch that’s healthy and substantial and delicious. By the May 24 weekend we’ll be even quicker because we’ll have four griddles going instead of two so we will both be cooking and will have to hire someone.
INGREDIENTS AND PLANS
Nick lives in Picton, Bryan still lives in Belleville but is actively looking for a place in The County. He’d dearly love to have some land to grow his own produce. “Right now we use Justin’s maple syrup and as soon as they open I stop every day at Hagerman’s for supplies. We want to find out all the local small suppliers so we can use their fresh produce. We get through a lot of asparagus! I suppose we could buy in bulk and freeze it, but honestly I like the fact that only thing in our freezers are ice cubes and ice cream. We like to use fresh.
We have a lot of pride in our freshness and ingredients. I love to eat well and I want to inspire others to do the same. Crepes are fresh and healthy, we use white flour and will be coming out with a whole grain flour batter. But also buckwheat flour which is gluten-free. We found gluten-free flour being produced in The County. We make all our own sauces, the butter chicken and the house sauce and the Hollandaise. We sourced locally produced strawberry jam and honey and we’re working on sourcing all the best County ingredients.
There’s a lot to do before summer kicks in and we have to hustle, we’ve finished beautifying the space getting ready for the crowds. Last summer I only had two days off! My brother had one. We’re open seven days a week from May 24. We want to make Crepe Escape a really great place. It takes up all our time right now it’s worth it. We do like our adventures, like when we cycled all the way from Ameliasburgh to the coast of Oregon, but we can squeeze stuff in if we try. Over the winter for a break from the renovations we did a 35-day backpacking trip to Europe – so we can’t complain. We expect to work really hard, but a great thing about The County is that it does slow down in winter, so if you do well in the high season you can get away and travel when it’s slow. Having said that we were pretty busy this March and April.
We’re getting requests to do onsite events, and although we don’t have a food cart, we don’t need one because our griddles are portable. We can easily bring them along just as long as there’s somewhere to plug in, or a generator. But we also plan on getting propane griddles in the near future.
Here on Main Street we’re running a family-friendly, affordable eating place in downtown Picton. Our prices are comparable to McDonalds when you add it all up, and we’re serving really good, fresh food. You don’t call crepes fast food, (although in France they do) but we serve up a fresh, great tasting lunch pretty fast, especially now that we have four griddles! We are growing fast, but we are keeping our prices the same as last year. That’s important for locals and families and regulars. One more thing, we’ve got a loyalty card, like coffee shops do, so after nine crepes you get the tenth one free. We’ve given out 500 of those already and had to order in a another batch of cards.” We wish them luck, Buena Suerte, although hard work, delicious crepes and satisfied customers seem to be working just fine for them.
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.