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Arby's restaurant on Woolwich closing at the end of the month

Dave and Kuldip Duhre have owned the only Guelph franchise since 2006
20190219 Arbys Closing KA
Cameron Hunter, from left, Kuldip Duhre, Dave Duhre and Isabel Roballo pose in front of the counter at the Arby's restaurant on Woolwich Street. Feb. 28 will be the final day in operation for the only Arby's franchise in Guelph. Kenneth Armstorng/GuelphToday

Customers and former staff have been visiting the Arby's restaurant on Woolwich Street to say goodbye and get one final roast beef sandwich.

Dave and Kuldip Duhre have owned the Arby's franchise at 670 Woolwich St. since 2006. Dave estimates that it probably opened in the mid-1980s.

“A lot of customers feel sad about it. One lady brought flowers for my wife,” said Dave.

“It’s an unfortunate thing that the restaurant is not going to be here. It may come back, I’m not sure, but we are too old to do it now.”

“I feel sorry for the kids working here who are losing their jobs,” said Kuldip.

Lately, the couple has seen former employees and long-time customers coming in to say goodbye. After it closes, people looking to get an Arby’s fix will have to travel at least as far as Kitchener or St. Jacobs.

“Many employees who worked here a long time succeeded and went on to do bigger things,” said Dave. “Eventually they went on to become an electrician or a teacher or an aircraft maintenance person. They move up, but they get a good training here working with the public and being responsible. It’s good training for the kids.”

Cameron Hunter is a Grade 12 student who has worked in the restaurant for more than two years. He was hoping to continue working while pursuing his post-secondary education.

He said the restaurant has been like a second family to him.

“I’m moving on to my next job with the experience of all of this,” he said.

The Duhres are giving letters of recommendation to the employees who will be out of work in about a week.

In the meantime, Cameron has been serving a number of regular customers who are coming in for one final sandwich.

“It’s weird, because they know it’s shutting down now. They come in for one last run,” said Cameron.

“Our general attitude has been if there is someone who doesn’t have money to give them something to eat,” said Dave. “My wife always says anyone who comes here must eat something, so all of the repair people and the truck driver that comes Wednesday, we give them a free lunch.”

Dave recalls one customer who celebrated her 100th birthday at the restaurant.

“She invited all of her relatives to celebrate her birthday here,” said Dave. “We had a joke that we have so many customers in their 90s and close to 100 that come here that this food must be good for them.”

Dave said sales made a big jump in 2018 over the previous year.

“Sometimes the strange, absurd things happen in life. This is one of those — that sales are going up and the restaurant is closing,” he said.

As with most franchises, Dave said Arby’s head office asks its franchisees to renovate the restaurant after five to 10 years. 

“Because the building is too big and too old, it would cost close to half a million dollars to change it to the new style,” said Dave. “At our age we are not going to spend too much money on somebody else’s building.” 

Dave said there is a chance the restaurant may reopen in the future under a different franchisee.

"It may come back, I’m not sure, but we are too old to do it now," he said.

Dave has been working on a few books over the years, including one about to be published as a criticism of Austrian economics.

“I want to devote all of my time to writing,” he said.

Dave also works freelance as an English-Punjabi translator.

“Part of it is helping people and I enjoy that,” he said.

Kuldip said she would like to spend more time with her son, who lives in Vancouver.

“Maybe we will travel a little bit,” she said.