-by John Gillis
Celebrating 10 years of business in the rapidly changing food, beverage and music business is no small feat, but that’s just what The Red Shoe Pub is doing this year under the ownership of the Rankin sisters.
Genevieve Rankin Fakoory told The Oran this week that she and sisters Cookie Rankin Massenburg and Heather Rankin have really felt the loss of sister Raylene, who was also a partner in the business.
“Raylene is missed so much and on the business side, she had such great attention to detail. When the four of us sat down ten years ago with little or no experience in the restaurant or pub side, we made a commitment to really doing this and making it work. She often brought her voice here and was generous with her talent, sometimes even singing unaccompanied,” said Genevieve.
There have been numerous changes, challenges, and highlights since the Rankins purchased the Pub from previous owner Rob Willson a decade ago, but surprisingly the overall look of The Pub has remained much the same.
“It’s a great building with a lot of character,” said Genevieve.
One thing that has changed is that the Pub is now run as a seasonal business from June through mid-October. She says it’s unfortunate that this is the case, but can’t, in the foreseeable future anyway, see that changing to year-round.
“We always knew the Pub had a great reputation for music, but putting more of an emphasis on the menu is something we wanted to do from the very beginning. It’s sometimes a challenge to experienced kitchen staff and chefs in a seasonal business. We’re very happy this year to see chef Galen Stasiuk back with us from Ontario. He was with us for our third season and this time he’s back with his family,” said Genevieve.
The Rankins have made some other changes as well, adding spirits and craft beers on tap; adding music nearly every day of the season; adding a deck and awning and upgrading the kitchen; storage, and prepping facilities over the years.
“It all takes time,” says Genevieve.
I tried the lunch special which was seafood penne with mussels, scallops, and a rose sauce; and it was absolutely delicious.
Angie Smith is back for her 8th season managing The Red Shoe. Smith says there are many highlights in her years managing the establishment.
“One of the things we’re really happy with is the jam sessions and how they are bringing the young generation of musicians in. The other thing is you just never know who might just drop in on short notice and play. Last year Natalie MacMaster dropped in on short notice; comedian and musician Billy Connolly came in and we had a request from Tony McManus, who also came in on short notice. It’s been wonderful,” said Smith.
Many people in Mabou will remember when Rita MacNeil and Jimmy Rankin performed in front of the Pub in 2005 for a televised special.
A big Kitchen Festival organized by Cape Breton’s Gaelic College will hold several events at The Red Shoe this season. The hope is that it may bring more people in earlier in summer like Celtic Colours does for the fall of the year.
Sometimes it’s little details that can make a difference over time. Smith says they’ve changed the showtimes during Celtic Colours to 9:00 to 12:00 midnight so that people can get to the Festival Club at St. Ann’s.
“A lot of people who are coming to Inverness County are coming because of The Red Shoe,” says Smith.
Wing and steak nights continue to be popular, as well as the Sunday ceilidhs.
“We try to book as many local musicians as we can,” says Smith.
With thirty-three employees on the seasonal employee list, it’s a certainty that the Pub is a major employer in the village and that it has certainly helped put a lot of students through university or college.
Smith says people often ask her what it’s like to work for the Rankins.
“I always say they have high expectations, but they should if they are attaching their name to an establishment,” said Smith.
So many people have great memories of the Shoe and many of them have been sharing them for a long time on the Pub’s website guestbook.
Preston MacLeod of Charlottetown recently wrote a brief message that many patrons of the Red Shoe can relate to: “The Red Shoe is always a highlight on our trips to Cape Breton.
Fine food, great entertainment, genuine Cape Breton hospitality.”
“We’ve always tried to welcome local people and visitors alike, and we look forward to doing business here for a long time,” Genevieve concluded.
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