By Michael Christianson
Last October Natalie Welniak and her husband Stosh were all wrapped up for the season at Buster’s Barbeque and were starting to make plans for their tenth season in business. They got their ducks all in a row and went down to Toronto for the 2016 Royal Winter Fair and that is when the news came. The restaurant was gone.
A fire had consumed Buster’s leaving nothing behind but the concrete slab where it once stood. Welniak says it was stressful dealing with the banks and insurance but after the smoke had settled the owners were already looking at the next step.
“If we wouldn’t have been so organized this past year it wouldn’t have been as easy to kind of deal with because now what has happened it’s turned into, how do we want to move forward with this?” said Welniak “Whereas before we were just in that building and it was great, it’s a great property, it’s a great space, it’s a great location, I don’t want to move, our kids go to school at Lillian Berg, we love it here. So now what’s happened is we had to buy that property as part of the insurance settlement so now that property is ours. The rebuild is going to be kind of like a cafeteria style barbeque restaurant that you’d find more in the south.”
Buster’s Barbeque plans to have a more open air concept in the future with space for other food trucks to come in, they will have a licensed patio and will hold outdoor music events. They also want to have a general store full of local food that will also be on their menu.
This summer Welniak says she has been picking lots of blueberries and she has been attending the Matiowski Farmers’ Market in Kenora selling Buster’s sauces and meeting new faces, an opportunity she wouldn’t have if the restaurant was open she adds.
“That business is, my husband and I, it’s our first baby and we’ve had that brand and we’ve fostered that brand for 10 years and when you experience something devastating like a fire it’s super negative because you’re dealing with all these depressive things but the customers and everybody it’s been incredible,” said Welniak. “It’s humbling and the support has just been incredible. There’s almost no words to express how the fire happened, but we got over it so quickly and moved past what happened so quickly because of all of our support from everybody.”
Buster’s Barbeque is slated to reopen in spring 2018.