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'It breaks all of our hearts': the loss of Olives and fine dining in Sarnia

Staff at Olives Restaurant are busy trying to keep up with an influx of customers ahead of their June 29 closure. Pictured are: (from left) Dianne, Lynne, Chantee, Sandy, Stephanie Grant (owner), Chef Ange and Chef Ben.

Stephanie Grant has been so busy scrambling to keep up with the crowds at her Sarnia restaurant that’s set to close later this month — she hasn’t had the chance to stop and think about what’s next.

“It’s been so busy, I can’t even focus on anything but what we’re doing right now,” said the owner of Olives Casual Cuisine on the Golden Mile — set to close its doors June 29. “We’ve been putting through 100-plus people for lunch every day; every table is booked. We are at capacity every day.”

That’s been the case ever since Grant posted a notice earlier this month announcing the well-known restaurant’s looming closure. Customers are coming in droves for their ‘last meal’ at the longstanding restaurant.

“Due to circumstances beyond my control, we were unable to continue on in the venue which we have operated out of,” she posted on social media. 

Grant told The Journal that while she can’t say much, she and her former business partner weren’t able to meet in the middle, and were forced to cancel the lease at 1591 London Line.


“I did ask for a new lease with the landlord and I was told it would be…not a feasible amount.”

Grant, who took over the restaurant in 2014 from owner Olive Archibald, had already worked as a server there for more than a decade.

“I’ve spent more than half my life in that building,” she said with emotion. “So it means a great deal to me.”

She’s been flooded with messages and social media posts from residents and visitors who have come to know Olives as more than just a restaurant over the years — it’s been a gathering place for countless families — from proposals, to baby showers, and celebrations of life for grieving loved ones.

“We have folks who have been married or had their wedding reception in our building, and they come every year for their anniversary dinner,” Grant recalls. “We’ve been with those families for all occasions… so many folks have counted on us for anything that they wanted to be special.

“These are customers we’ve gotten to know very well over the years,” she adds. “And it breaks all of our hearts that we are not going to be able to continue that.”

Posts on the business’ Facebook page have been flooding in from regulars, and visitors from across the globe who enjoyed the restaurant’s signature lunch and dinner menus and friendly atmosphere.

“I celebrated my 60th there,” one patron wrote. “My best friend’s daughter had her wedding reception there and tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating my daughter’s 33rd. Such a lovely place to celebrate.”

Grant also pointed to the loss of fine dining — not just at Olives — but across the restaurant landscape.

"There really isn’t a lot of places where you can dine anymore, you know?” she said. “[Olives] was one of the last places where you still get tablecloths; you still get servers who are service-driven. It’s just different.

“There’s not many small local businesses left… it's changed, and the little guys are being pushed out,” she adds. “They just can’t afford the rising costs, the rents that are being put on them. We’re not the only ones.”

The news has been hardest on the some 17 staff — many who have been together since the beginning, Grant said.

“My staff is like family to me. Many work here as a second job — it’s what they call their fun job,” she said. “They love what they do — that’s why they’re good at it.

“It gives me a great sense of pride. But I’m so sad that we are all losing that.”

Olives’ last day of service will be June 29. Anyone with outstanding gift cards wishing to make use of them may do so up until that time.

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