While our restaurants were a failure, Marca continues to hold a very special place at harry james enterprises. We owned a beautiful commercial location overlooking the Cobourg Harbour. My wife and I always thought it would be a great place for a wine bar or boutique restaurant. We were real estate investors not restauranteurs so when builder / developer / restauranteur Joe Ferrara walked into our lives and saw our vision we were happy to have him sign a lease. He however had other plans, he wanted us to partner with him. “Partner with you? we don’t even know you and we are not in the habit of marrying people we don’t know. If you like the space lease it but no thanks to the partnership”. Well Joe, who’s personality is best described as a combination of red bull and double espresso, wouldn’t let up. “Just come and visit my Mara restaurant in Whitby, we are different” I was thinking you are different all right. Regardless we visited Whitby, got to know each other, opened Cobourg and two other restaurants and proceeded to lose a lot of money over the next 6 years.
How could I let that happen? It’s much easier than you think, somehow you always convince yourself next week is going to be different; this Chef is going to be different; we just need to persevere and build a loyal clientele. Finally, you break out of your delusion and start to make some sane business decisions. The reality is however as we were losing money in the restaurants, we were making money in our true sweet spot, real estate. We were building, renovating and innovating left, right and center. Maybe we had to be successful at real estate to feed our cash hungry restaurants but regardless the partnership worked.
With Joe’s incredible talent and creativity in building, my pretty good skills at finding value and negotiating deals and my wife’s incredible gift of decorating and design we literally built a real estate dream team on top of three sinking restaurants. Marca was eventually changed to harry james enterprises and the rest as they say is history.