Sheri Robertson, Joan Stephenson-Bowes and Kevin Van Dusen know all too well that they occupy a special piece of Perth history.
As owners of Maximilian’s Restaurant the three oversee a tradition that goes back close to 50 years. It’s a legacy that, according to Kevin, keeps them on their toes.
“We like the challenge of trying new things and introducing new items into the menu, while continuing to offer our tried-and-true favorites,” he says. “It keeps us hopping. “
“We have a very loyal customer base,” continues Sheri. “Most of them came to the restaurant as children and now, as parents, they bring their own children and, in some cases, grandchildren.”
While continuity is an important aspect of what makes Maximilian’s special, the owners are also keenly aware of their need to move with the times.
“We now offer vegan, vegetarian and diary free options,” Joan points out. “In fact, we just introduced a gluten-free schnitzel and it’s gone over very well.”
Nobody knows the recipes better than Kevin who was just 22 years old when he began as a chef at the restaurant on Mother’s Day 2005.
“What a baptism by fire that was,” recalls Kevin who considers himself to be a high energy person. “I tend to be the go-go guy on the team. It helps to be a little ADHD in the restaurant business.”
Sherri is the newest member of the team having joined 5 years ago. She had been coming to the restaurant since she was 8 years old.
“I had my favorite dish, the Pork Paprikas, and I got it every time we came here,” she recalls.
“They wouldn’t give me the recipe so eventually I bought the restaurant to get it,” laughs Sherri who started out as a server before becoming a co-owner in 2015.
Unlike the others, Joan had never worked at Maximilian’s before coming on board as a co-owner.
“But we knew who she was because she used to deliver desserts here,” points out Sherri.
It was in 2013 following the sale of her commercial bakery business (Perth Pie Co.) that Joan joined the ownership team at Maximilian’s.
“She’s our numbers person,” says Kevin.
By 2019 Joan realized the numbers were becoming more and more of a challenge.
“Our rent was going up every year,” says Joan. “So was the cost of food, heat and hydro.”
It was for this reason on May 1 of that year that the three took a leap of faith and bought the large Georgian sandstone building that had housed the restaurant since 1990.
“It was a huge accomplishment for the business,” says Joan, “and one we’re very proud of.”
Less than a year later, the three faced a new challenge – a world-wide pandemic.
“We had to cut staff,” says Joan, “and to reduce our own wages. It forced us to think outside the box and to adjust our menu choices.”
Through it all the three remained committed to reaching out to those around them.
As a business, they donate monthly to the Studio Theatre and provide meals for the staff and residents at the six different homes for the developmentally-challenged. They also assist with an annual Octoberfest for the Perth Enrichment Program for older adults and donate to and host a monthly Memory Cafe for the Alzheimer’s Society.
“We were the first restaurant in town to offer an Alzheimer/Dementia-friendly menu with photos of the food on the menu,” says Joan. “The Lanark County Photo Club took pictures of the food and then we invited them to stick around and help themselves to the food they’d been photographing.”
Sherri, Joan and Kevin remain keenly aware of Maximilian’s place in local history. It’s why they keep one eye on the past and one eye on the future. In between, they’re more than pleased to help the community that has helped them so much over the years.