[This article first appeared in Vacay.ca]
MOUNT STEWART, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — Olympic moments happen across this country on a daily basis. The participants may not be going for gold medals like the competitors at the London 2012 Summer Games, but they are striving to achieve ultimate success. Although they do it in obscurity, the spirit with which these entrepreneurs pursue their goals is similar to the dedication elite athletes have for their disciplines.
I recently came across a couple of examples of Canadians in the travel and hospitality industry who are giving it their all as they chase their dreams. Pat and Meghann Deighan were married on December 30, 2011, about two weeks after they purchased the Trailside Inn and Café, a venue 30 minutes outside of Charlottetown that has been a reliable spot in Prince Edward Island for good music and good times. The Trailside was in need of rescue and the newlyweds have poured themselves into making it the coolest music venue in Canada east of Casa del Popolo in Montreal and the Dakota Tavern in Toronto.
Like the Dakota, the Trailside features clever decor, an intimate atmosphere that charms musicians, and a short menu that delivers big for diners. The Trailside Café only has four main dishes, one of which is a daily special from chef Chris Coupland and another is an order of the best fishcakes you’re likely to ever taste. They are loaded with salmon and haddock, and go for just $15. You’ll devour them on one of the café’s tables that Meghann Deighan has decorated in inventive ways. On one surface, she has lacquered decades-old receipts from the property’s previous incarnation as a community co-op store, on others are black-and-white images and old movie posters.
“We’re looking for low-cost solutions for improving the place and the property has an amazing history, so we figure why not use what we can that’s right here,” says Meghann Deighan while pointing out some of the old dusty bottles that are kept in the back of the store.
The Trailside is the kind of place where the headline performer can stand at a bar drinking a beer while taking in his own warm-up act. Such was the case last Wednesday night, when Matt Mays headlined on back-to-back nights while his friend Adam Baldwin opened up. Seeing a musician of the calibre of Mays — a Juno nominee whose latest album “Coyote” is due out on September 4 — in a setting that holds no more than 50 people is a rare treat.
It’s also good marketing for the Trailside, which is hopeful of attracting more people from Charlottetown and elsewhere in the Maritimes to its little spot on the side of the road in Mount Stewart, home to about 310 people. If reviews from customers during Mays’ show are an indication, the Deighans will do all right. Several attendees praised the café’s atmosphere and its menu.
“The Trailside always had a good music scene but it needed a little more upkeep and we wanted to focus on improving the food. I think we have. I think Chris has hit it out of the park,” Pat Deighan says of his chef.