Regulars from Crabby Joe’s on Woodlawn Road were disappointed to hear their favourite beer and burger joint was shutting down, but little has changed short of the name.
“I used to own Crabby Joe’s as well,” said co-owner and manager Milan “Mony” Champaneria. “This is the same business. This was a Crabby Joe’s and we wanted to do something different.”
Rebranding under the name Chuck’s Roadhouse was an option offered by parent company, Obsidian Group, to Crabby Joe’s franchise owners across Ontario.
“We had our clientele with Crabby Joe’s already, but it wasn’t going up and it wasn’t going down,” said Champaneria. “We had an option to keep it as a Crabby Joe’s but we wanted to do something different for the Guelph market. We wanted to do something more challenging and fast-paced.”
Champaneria and his three partners own both Chuck’s Roadhouse locations in Guelph. He and his cousin, Viresh Chauhan manage the restaurant at 261 Woodlawn Rd and Vishal Member and Himanshu Panchal manage the location at 174 Clair Rd.
“We closed on Tuesday the 13th of August,” said Champaneria. “That was our last day as a Crabby Joe’s and we opened on the 30th of August with Chuck’s Roadhouse, it was a Friday.”
The rebranding went off with little disruption for customers.
“So far, I am really, really happy and I am so thankful to the community,” said Champaneria. “They have taken on to it really well and shown us tremendous support. All of our regular customers that were here before are coming back in.”
One of the focuses of the rebranding is to offer, typically more expensive items such as lobster to customers on a beer and burger budget.
“The main thing we are promoting is that our prices are good which is something no one can offer,” he said. “We are selling it for cheaper prices but that doesn’t mean we are compromising on any of our food.”
Owning a restaurant was a childhood dream for Champaneria who grew up in the state of Gujarat in India and moved to Guelph in 2015 to work at Crabby Joe’s.
“I was born in Surat, which is known as the Diamond City,” he said. “I came to Canada in 2009. I still remember the day. It was the 26th of December. I came on sale for Boxing Day. It was my first time in another country and I was only 19.”
His father, a business owner in India, encouraged him to get into the restaurant business, but he chose to study engineering.
“I did electronic communication back there and I came here for further studies,” he said. “I went to Centennial College in Scarborough and lived there for three years where I studied electromechanics, automation and robotics.”
His studies did little to further his career as a restauranteur but it was during his time at Centennial College that he and his cousin, Viresh Chauhan, met Vishal Member and Himanshu Panchal.
“All four of us are from the same city in India,” said Champaneria. “We were roommates when we were studying at Centennial. When our schooling was done in 2012 we started working in a restaurant downtown in Toronto – that is where I got my most experience.”
He took inspiration from the founder of Crabby Joe’s, Gus Karamountzos, and worked his way up through the ranks.
“I started working in the kitchen and worked my way up,” he said. “I started working front, started bartending, serving and everything and stayed at it until I was a business owner. I didn’t just show up and buy the place or come in as a manager.”
He and Chauhan are affectionately known, by customers and staff, as V and Mony, a nickname he picked up as a child. He said he has built friendships with many of the regulars since he and his partners took over the business in 2017 and the same is true of the staff.
“The staff who have stayed with us are our family,” he said. “We work as a family and we are good friends. There is no difference between employee and employer, we work together and we all do our jobs together.”