Stepping into the McIntyre Coffee Shop, patrons are transported to another time. Entering under a stylized, Depression-era marquee, hungry customers grab a seat at the counter atop swivel stools, while perusing the menu filled with homecooked, stick-to-your-ribs goodness.
The dynamic duo behind the shop’s operation is Judi and Marc Duciaume, partners in business and life, who have operated the shop, located in the McIntyre Arena, for more than a decade. On the menu is everything from fall-off-the-bone ribs to pickerel and freshly cut fries, and locals and visitors alike consistently rave about the quality and variety of fare on offer.
By their enthusiasm, one would think the pair has been cooking their whole lives, but the two come from wildly divergent backgrounds — he in drycleaning, she in banking — and only really plunged into the food business when they opened their first restaurant, Boogy’s Diner and Catering, at the Timmins airport in 2001.
Two years later, the coffee shop came under threat of closure.
“We used to eat at the Mac all the time because our kids were in hockey,” Judi said. “It was going to close because it had no afternoon business, and it wasn’t doing well, so we thought we could make it a little better. That was the motivation — just to keep the restaurant going — because it’s an icon in Timmins.”
The restaurant remains largely the same as it did upon its opening in 1939, with the exception of the kitchen’s equipment, which has all been replaced with new, stateof- the-art appliances.
But cramming all that shiny hardware into a tiny kitchen, with no room for expansion, can make feeding the city’s hungry a challenge, especially since the Duciaumes have filled a niche catering market. Since taking over the contract, the Duciaumes cater events both at the Mac and outside venues, under their McIntyre Catering banner.
The Mac can be adapted to a number of configurations.
The arena ice surface holds 2,000, while the curling club surface holds half that, and the club’s lounge has a capacity of 130. The upper-level ballroom can seat 360, while the auditorium holds 125.
“There are lots of different spaces there that are available to rent to just about any group that’s looking for space,” Judi said. “We’ve got it.”
Some of their signature events include a sit-down, fivecourse prime rib dinner for 500 at the Northern Ontario Business Awards (hosted by this newspaper); three meals a day, over 10 days, for 500 players during the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge; and this year’s plated, sit-down dinner for 723 as part of the Thériault High School graduation.
“We do absolutely everything,” Judi said. “People call us for the strangest things sometimes and we just respond and jump to it because it adds to our portfolio. We have a lot of fun doing it, actually.”
Behind the food is master planner Marc, who tailors his menu and service to clients’ needs, whether they’re hosting a trade show for hundreds, or an intimate business luncheon for a few.
“We’ll do everything from prime rib, shrimp and lobster to hot dogs and fries,” Marc said.
Clients offer their insight into the scope, style, and budget of the event, and he takes it from there, providing five to 10 scenarios to choose from.
“Once they give me a budget and a dollar value, I can usually throw my ideas at them,” he said.
After travelling the North through his drycleaning business, Marc was ready for a change when health concerns associated with the chemicals started to become a concern. He had been drawing up menus for fun, and when the opportunity came to land the airport restaurant contract, he saw a career shift in his future.
Now, he loves going to work every day and believes the high-paced atmosphere keeps him young.
“Some people find it stressful,” he said. “I just roll with the punches and say, ‘Bring it on.’ I love the challenge.”
That challenge presents itself 365 days of the year, sustaining the business through all four seasons. It starts in fall with hockey and curling season when banquets rule; by spring, the conventions begin. The home show hosts 6,000 people through the arena in two days, while the trade show gets 5,000 by comparison. And then come the weddings; it’s not unheard of for the Duciaumes to host three in one evening.
The couple simultaneously operates Fat Daddy’s food truck, which is bustling through the summer months from its location in Hollinger Park. It takes a staff of between 35 and 50 to keep all facets of the business running smoothly.
In a recent commission for the city, consultants have proposed a sustainability plan for the Mac that would transform it exclusively to a convention centre. Though in its very nascent stages, the change would be a welcome one for Judi, who would relish a chance to revamp the kitchen into a larger space.
“In 1939, they really didn’t consider space as being a premium design — they just wanted you to push out bacon and eggs and be done with it,” she laughed. “I don’t think they had the concept of catering to 700 people.”
Whether Judi will get her kitchen remains to be seen, but, in the meantime, she and Marc will continue to prepare the food they love for the customers they love to serve.
“It’s a rush,” she said. “I love talking to these people and I love selling them our food, because I know we can do a stellar job and I know they won’t be disappointed.”