Fairway Inn & JJ's Diner
216 Roachville Rd, Sussex, NB
On a cold winter day in February 1978, John and Gloria Jenkins drove down the then Trans Canada Highway from their home in Fredericton, NB, to start a new life in nearby Sussex.
John and his wife Gloria had just purchased the Fairway Inn & Restaurant located in Sussex, New Brunswick's Dairy Capital. The original 54 unit motel and 70 seat restaurant was at that time strategically located on Route 2, New Brunswick's central Trans-Canada Highway corridor, to and from the Atlantic Provinces.
The Jenkins embarked on a 35 plus year business adventure. They both had previous job experience, but they had no previous experience in the foodservice industry. They had to adapt quickly, and it became a signature way of life for the Jenkins family.
The changing fortunes of the Sussex region presented many challenges to the young couple. However, today they relish in the success of their business and of their two sons who are both deeply involved in the hospitality and foodservice industry. Brothers Mark, now General Manager of the family operations, and Stephen, who operates a Greco Pizza franchise in downtown Sussex, grew up in the family business.
John Jenkins tells an interesting story of adaptability and determination to keep his business viable. John and his family have overcome many challenges as Sussex evolved from its agricultural base into an industrialized mining and energy exploration economy. Sussex, in the 80's and 90's, grew as a result of employment from the launch of large potash mining operations in southern New Brunswick.
"We expanded to meet the needs of our customers. We added extended stay apartments to our motel room units as well as an indoor pool. There was a lot of construction activity, and we expanded to service the companies coming to Sussex, to do business".
"Sussex is central to New Brunswick in all directions and we get a lot of organizations coming here for their meetings". As a result of this meeting room demand, we added a 200-seat banquet hall capacity and conference centre with multiple room sizes.
We also expanded the restaurant with capacity for 140 seats", says John.
"Sussex is a great location for business organizations to meet. Everyone in attendance drives about the same road distance to get here, and that is great for our meal and conference business".
One of John's proudest achievements is JJ's Diner, which he researched for development as an attraction to build up his food service business. His diner concept, which features early automotive memorabilia and atmosphere, is a themed visitor attraction that customers love to visit and comment on today. Travellers love diners, he says
True to his age group, JJ’s resembles a 50’s and 60’s era diner with bright, colorful artifacts on display. JJ's ( aka John Jenkin's ) Diner is a nostalgic experience in every sense of the word.
More importantly, says John, the themed diner atmosphere transformed their dining business. Today, years later it is still a "must-go, must-see" location for families, and friends to meet for a meal.
In a business defensive move, John decided to join a national motel marketing brand in the early 90's as more competition began to open motels in the area. Sussex was booming, in the New Brunswick sense of the word. Mines were opening underground, while a developing energy exploration investment brought visitors seeking natural gas deposits. The Fundy Trail started developing to promote the Bay of Fundy coastline, with Sussex and nearby Saint John City positioned as a tourism gateway concept. Room night bookings were growing nicely.
During the early 90's decade, business volume grew and then everything began to change, again and presented new potentially disastrous business challenges.
During the late 90's in New Brunswick, the governments of the day decided to create a new divided highway route for the TCH, Route 2. This move, in highway routing location, isolated Sussex from the largest volume of trans-province traffic flow. A new separation of north and south highway routes closer to Moncton did retain some smaller traffic volume through Sussex. However, despite John's best efforts at marketing promotions, the majority of regional traffic volume moved nearly 50 miles north. The new highway route linking Moncton, and Fredericton directly, bypassed Sussex.
The addition of a new divided highway interchange at Sussex contributed to accessing the Fairway Inn & JJ's Diner, a navigational challenge for travellers. By the beginning of 2000’s decade, the Jenkins family faced the loss of a significant volume of its highway convenience location traffic. The hospitality business owners realized that their participation in a national marketing brand for room reservation bookings was no longer sustainable.
"I had to negotiate an end to that business relationship, which was difficult because the first few years were great. What I did learn is that in changing the brand name of our business hurt us. When we took our original Fairway Inn name back, it was a great decision for attracting customers, and our Fairway brand is working well for us today".
"The biggest lesson in business is that you have to adapt. Change can happen to you at any time. A few years ago, one of the biggest potash mines in the area closed, and suddenly a big part of our volume disappeared. You have to make that business up somewhere else".
"Sussex and our operations have had some banner business years and some setbacks. But overall, we are blessed with great customers who keep coming back on a regular basis from all over southern New Brunswick".
"We are also fortunate in that we have held onto a great staff over the years. I am so proud of the quality of the local staff we have. Our staff have made all the difference in our success as a business", says John.
John says that The Fairway Inn and JJ's Diner business success have also benefited from being members of UNIPCO.
"We joined UNIPCO in October of 1996, as one of the very first members when it was just starting up as a small buying group. I am very thankful that I joined UNIPCO when I did", he says.
"Those outside UNIPCO now, do not know what they are missing. The protection you get from purchasing power can make a big difference in any operation."
"The benefit of the rebate system is a huge help every year. I think it is the best rebate system out there." says John.
"The quality of the organization and staff is second to none. As an independent operator, we have somewhere to go to get help when we need it. That is worth a lot to me."
"I appreciate being able to find out from ( UNIPCO's) staff how other operators are dealing with a particular problem when it comes up. I learn how they are dealing with it, and that helps me with finding a solution to my problem".
One of the best decisions I ever made in this business was to join UNIPCO", says John.