Waring House Celebrates a Quarter Century.
In 1995 veterinarian Christopher Rogers went to the Picton RecPlex to play squash, and came home to his wife Norah with the idea of buying the Waring House.
The venerable limestone home had been opened as a fine dining restaurant by Anita Videl in 1981. Five partners carried on the business until 1988, and now it was for sale. Christopher and Norah who had both grown up in Century limestone homes, thought about making it their home, but then decided to re-open it as a restaurant and add four guest rooms upstairs. They hired Chris Currah as their first manager and were off to the races. Piece of cake, right?
“Well, we soon learned new respect for anyone in the restaurant and hospitality business,” said Christopher. “Over the years just about anything challenging that can happen has happened,” recalls Norah. “But we’re still here, and still enjoying the business, with good reason.”
“Personally, the Waring House has been a learning curve for both of us – a way to learn and keep learning, to be creative, and ever challenged, and always needing to find solutions and new avenues to explore to keep the business fresh. Over the years we have explored and developed so many things that intertwine and make this business what it is.”
“There is the Irish heritage of the Waring family, the history and beauty of the home, the history and agricultural heritage of the area, which segues into the importance of local food products and cider, which has morphed into being a pioneer in the brewing of beer (Christopher founded Barley Days Brewery in 1999, and now brewing has taken off in The County).”
Norah recognizes, “Being so fortunate to own an established country inn in an emerging wine region.” “It has been amazing to be part of the explosion of the arts, viticulture, and culinary expression. Pair that with the natural beauty, the proud agricultural and fisheries heritage, the history and the families who have lived here for eight or more generations and it’s a pretty inspiring place to live and do business.
That inspiration has created an inn which enjoys an historical setting. The Waring Homestead allows guests to experience Ontario‘s domestic heritage with antiques and Canadian fine art are on display. Lodges are furnished with wonderful pieces created at Canada‘s oldest furniture factory, Gibbard’s, in Napanee which opened in 1834, and closed in 2009. We have local art work on display and have always worked with the arts community to promote the wonderful contribution they make to life in The County.
“A big part of the Waring House is music. Even now the inn still hosts live music seven days a week and we are so fortunate to have an amazing roster of musicians, most of whom live in the region” says Christopher. There is a lovely Yamaha baby grand piano in Amelia’s Garden restaurant, but mostly music is performed in the Barley Room Pub. Music is part of the reason Waring House has such a loyal customer base. Music and the atmosphere in general has made the Barley Room the gathering place of Prince Edward County.
“Fundamental to the atmosphere is our wonderful staff,” says Norah. “Our service team is uniformly hospitable and friendly. There is real teamwork, especially when the place is hopping. It may be ninety degrees in the kitchen and walk ins may arrive all at once, but everyone just gets down to work and does it. It’s really heartwarming when you feel how proud they are of a job well done.”
Indeed, the Rogers credit their staff with much of the success of the business. “Many of our staff have been with us for years – some since the year we opened,” advises Christopher.
“COVID has been really tough on our employees. We have real respect for them. We have developed protocols for all departments to keep our staff and the community safe, and to protect customers. Front line people like servers and bussers, receptionists and housekeepers have had to face so many dangers and the extra work of disinfection and the irritation of PPE, but they are doing it, and doing it cheerfully, kindly and conscientiously.”
Norah adds, “We have had our share of tense, anxious guests, and we do understand where that is coming from and work with it. We try to find humour and good cheer whenever we can. For instance, all of our service staff wear T-shirts with “BEE Kind” on the back, and we have nicknamed our dining room manager the Fun Buster because she gets to tell people they cannot sing or dance to the music.”
Christopher concludes “We are doing our best to keep things as normal as possible through this pandemic year. We had great plans to celebrate our twenty fifth year in business, but of course most couldn’t take place. However, we are carrying on with our monthly wine society dinners and will have a Robbie Burns night for our scotch society. Live music continues with musicians playing behind a plastic screen. We have morphed from outdoor dining in season, to takeout, and then indoor dining with social distancing.”
“Like everyone, we look forward to the day when life will get back to normal and we no longer have to function in a scaled down version of ourselves,” added Norah.
“Waring House has been a quarter century of learning and creative hard work, but a lot of fun too. The fun times we call ‘Waring Moments’ – that’s when there’s a real buzz in the place and everything’s right in the universe.”