Shirley’s Café, located at the busy corner of Dalton Avenue and Church Street in Tignish, has seen many changes in 25 years of business.
Shirley Harper, Owner, says when she and her late husband Cletus and their two children, Christa and Ricky, made the decision to venture into a family business, they did not expect that they would get so big and so busy.
In the beginning, they started with a laundromat, a small diner, plus a convenience store, and things grew from there. “At times, we are extra busy preparing lunch items for people in the fishing industry. We carry sandwiches, cold salad plates, and fried chicken for quick pick-ups.”
The main floor has a large seating area where they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “Nothing fancy,” Shirley says, but they even had a Prime Minister and some of his delegates visit for a meal. “That was an exciting day for us. Following the visit of Stephen Harper, a tourist offered me money for the chair he sat on, but I did not sell it.”
Shirley’s has always helped with many community events. For example, during the Irish Moss Festival and the July 1st weekend, Shirley hosts the pancake flipping contest. “I always give a donation or prize to support the many benefits to help people who are ill or in need. We are a caring community here in Tignish.”
Shirley’s is close to the Tignish Credit Union Arena, which is convenient for families and sports teams coming for meals or snacks during the winter. The Café is the place to pick up Sears orders. It is also an outlet for lotto tickets, and the biggest winner so far has been $100,000.
At least once per week, there is a truck parked in front of the store selling fresh fish. Many customers appreciate this.
About the staff
“My first employee was my sister, Rosie, and at present, there are 18 part-time and four full-time people employed here,” says Shirley. “A young lady who worked here for two years recently decided to go to university. We are so proud of her and wish her the best.”
“The summers are the busiest, so we hire extra students,” says Shirley. “When a position becomes available, it could be for a cook, cook’s helper, server or cashier. When I look to hire new people, I use the resumés I have on file. I really appreciate meeting the person when they bring in their resumés.” She says SkillsPEI programs have been of great help when a new person is hired.
A new hire starts at minimum wage, which increases within a few months if the worker is doing well. “When someone comes in with no experience, we provide training. This is of great benefit to students, because they come to us with no previous work experience and want to learn and do their best. Things usually work out well.
“I may slow down sometime in the future, but I hope Shirley’s Café will continue being a family business,” Shirley says.