Fernwood Inn turns ten; plans to open a new restaurant

›› Kathryn Juricic

The Fernwood Inn is having a big year. First of all, on April 2nd, they turned ten—ten! That’s a lot of beer poured, burgers assembled, and hair lost. But let’s be honest, they’re definitely a pillar of our community. ­Prominently a happy shade of yellow in Fernwood corners, The Fernwood Inn has got our backs and they keep our bellies filled.

The award winning pub and restaurant has many owners but I sat down with the one who (like it or not) is always around, Michael Colwill. Mike didn’t ­hesitate to roll off what he loves most about ­Fernwood: everything. The quirkiness, the melting pot of eccentrics. He would know, there are many regulars and friends that come through the Inn on the daily, all of who are very diverse, “so many characters,” Colwill smiled and shook his head. Ah—the stories we’ve shared.

“The Fernwood Inn is a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Over time we’ve developed a group of regulars, friends of the house, and friends of the Inn. It’s a place where young families can go, Belfry customers, Fernwood locals, the Bubble Man, the ball teams, students… Everyone appreciates and respects each other,” shared Colwill. “These people have had an impact.”

When I asked Colwill how their ­business changed over the years, he explained that it has, “evolved and morphed into what the community wants. From day one it’s been a community gathering place.” He is proud of this fact and this is truly what they’ve become.

The happenings there range from paint nights to open-mics to hosting Benji’s Pub Quiz. They give back too, The ­Fernwood Inn hosts annual events for the ­neighbourhood, including a ­Caroling Party every Christmas Eve and “­Neighbours for Change,” a block party held on ­Gladstone Avenue. Funds raised go towards the Roger Colwill Fund. They have supported Fernwood NRG’s ­community orchard, and Kevin ­Oneschuk’s family, to name a few. This idea of giving back to the ­community is at the forefront of their plan for next door.

If you frequent Fernwood Village, you might be curious who is behind the “SOLD” signs next to the Inn on ­Fernwood Road. Well, The Fernwood Inn owners have purchased the 45,000 square foot office space and will be transforming it: the new building will include a small office space, two residential units and, wait for it—the “Fernwood Pizza Company.”

They’ll be slangin’ za and gelato for our little neighbourhood for years to come. “We know and understand the food ­industry and we do a shocking amount of to-go food in The Fernwood Inn, which made us think that there is an ­opportunity here.” There is no such thing as a quick service or to-go delivery option out of Fernwood. ­Fernwood Pizza Company will focus on quick service, pick-up and ­delivery—and using an electric assist cargo bike at that.

The other additions at the 2009 ­Fernwood Road development will be two one-bedroom rental units and the office space will ideally house a start-up or ­something.

This is all just a continuation of ­investment in our neighbourhood that The Fernwood Inn has been a part of over the past ten years.

Thinking of what the neighbourhood looked like when the Inn opened, ­Colwill described that it has, “become safer and more community oriented while still ­maintaining its funkiness. Fernwood has grown up,” Mike reflected, “and The ­Fernwood Inn has grown up with ­Fernwood.” When the annual caroling festivities first started at the Fernwood Inn, it was a big party. Now there are more ­children than adults that attend.

Now, after ten years of business and friendships, they are continuing to build community and grow with the ­neighbourhood that has supported them for a decade. “People care about our ­neighbourhood,” Colwill described, “The Fernwood Inn is building on that ­momentum.”

Mike’s final thoughts on the anniversary and were simply, “Fernwood is such an awesome place and we’re just ­continuing to invest into the future of the ­neighbourhood.”

I asked one last question for Mike, “If you could tell our Executive Director one thing, what would it be?”

“That’s a great haircut.”