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A Real Jerk moves to Woodbridge

Ed Pottinger sits at an out-of-the-way table near the back of the dining room, assembling the new Interac machine – just one of the wrinkles that need ironing out.

Reggae plays and green, yellow and red tinged light streams through the coloured windows of his new Jamaican restaurant in Woodbridge.

It’s Monday, two days after the familiar and venerable sunglassed-sun logo of Leslieville’s The Real Jerk shone for the first time in Vaughan.

The weather was perfect for a barbecue on the day Pottinger and his wife Lilly opened their new eatery at 93 Woodstream Blvd. Live steel pan music provided an apt soundtrack. The suckling pig on the seven-foot-long ‘cue brought out “quite a few Italians” eager to try out some Jamaican-style “porchetta”, Pottinger said with a sense of satisfaction.

“Why (open) here?” he asked rhetorically. “Why not here? Just up the road is a Mexican restaurant and close by is a Japanese and a Chinese.

“This area represents a little smorgasbord of ethnic foods.”

The other Real Jerk, on the corner of Broadview Ave. and Queen St. East in Toronto, has been feeding people for 23 years, he said, long enough to witness many long-time and commuter customers making the flight to the suburbs.

“We found out a lot of our customers come downtown but they live on the outskirts – they live up here and in Mississauga and Etobicoke and in Oakville,” Pottinger said “I’m trying to reach out to them rather then waiting for them to come into us.”

In what might be considered a counter-intuitive move in the restaurant business, Pottinger says he’s not in a rush to acquire a liquor licence, focusing instead on associating his brand with food.

“It’s important to us to be a food establishment rather than a watering hole or somewhere to have a few beers,” he said. “I do things in reverse: smart businessmen (go for) booze, booze, booze.

“All those who’ve done that only last three, four, five years. I’ve been around 23.”

After that many years in business, he says, he wants to get his children more involved in running both locations, along with a planned commissary at Marycroft Ave. and Hwy. 7, so he “can go to Jamaica and chill out for two, three months at a time”.

In the meantime, he’s happy to bring a taste of the Caribbean to a corner of Woodbridge.

“A lot of people from this area travel, I’m sure,” he said. “So when they come back, this gives them that authentic Jamaican flavour.

“Why go to the Caribbean when you can come here?”

Vaughan Today
Friday, October 5, 2007
Page: 7
Section: Vaughan Business
Byline: Philip Alves