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Rusty Anchor Restaurant Shines in Cape Breton.

Member Since: 
May, 1997

Imagine this scenario as a restaurant start-up story.

Not sure what to call your restaurant, so you offer a free meal for a year to anyone who suggests the chosen name. The offer is a pre-launch promotion to anyone who comes up with a catchy name for the proprietor's new restaurant.

And that is how the Rusty Anchor Restaurant in Pleasant Bay got its unique name. The 90-seat restaurant is on the internationally famous Cabot Trail highway in Nova Scotia. 

Rusty Anchor was a bold idea for renaming a long closed former gift shop turned into a restaurant. A resident supplied the name that Donna Timmons picked among the many names submitted, and the rest of the story is history.

The Rusty Anchor's 80-seat seasonal patio and dining room overlooks the vast Atlantic Ocean. Donna says the view from her dining room and patio is a great attraction for patrons. 

Travel reviews highlight the stunning ocean view at Pleasant Bay. One attraction for visitors is the mammoth-sized whales seen from the restaurant and provides a stage show. Tourists come to see the whales at play and stay for the delicious meals offered by Donna and her staff of 14. 

The Rusty Anchor is enjoying success. In May of 2016, it will celebrate 20 years in business. The restaurant still benefits from a ten-year ago article published in National Geographic Magazine. The international magazines' coverage of the Rusty Anchor created recognition that continues till today. 

"Just last week a WestJet Vacations photographer took photos for an upcoming magazine article. When I asked them how they thought to pick us, they mentioned that same long ago National Geographic coverage", says Donna.

Donna and husband Wesley turned their restaurant into a "must-stop" attraction. 

While building up the Rusty Anchor as a business, the Timmons also raised a family of one son and two daughters.  

Their son operates a whale watching business in nearby Cheticamp. Their two daughters, who served as waitresses during their youth, are now contributing grandchildren. The elder Timmons were teenage sweethearts and are celebrating 42 years of marriage.

"Wesley encouraged me to start this business. He said then that I would rather regret trying it and failing than not doing the restaurant at all. So we walked in and gutted the place to make it what it is today", Donna says. 

"We opened in May 1996. When we opened, I made myself a personal goal. It was to do the job well enough to have someone come in and say they came in to eat because someone else said they should try it. It took me five years to get that first recommendation". 

"Five years after that my first recommendation, the National Geographic Magazine called. They called for permission to include the Rusty Anchor in their travel location article", she says.

"I was sure it was one of my girlfriends playing a trick on me, but the caller on the phone convinced me she was from the magazine. She said then that the impact of the article would last for years, and it has. I asked Westjet why they choose Rusty Anchor; they mentioned the National Geographic article. It is unbelievable the impact that one National Geographic article has had on our business", says Donna.

Now ten years later the impact of that international recognition continues.

"Just this year an online article on the Top 20 Places To Visit in the World include Cape Breton, which is # 11 on their list.  I discovered that when you clicked on the Cape Breton link, the Rusty Anchor is the Where to Eat recommendation for Cape Breton".

Donna says the Rusty Anchor Restaurant's remarkable business success story is location, location, and location. Her success formula is paying careful attention to what matters in the kitchen, and at the guest's table.

"Our menu's top sellers are #1: Cape Breton Fish & Chips. We grill the haddock after a roll in some flour and egg wash. It is delicious. A toss up for #2 in popularity is our generous Lobster Roll. You can see the lobster spilling over the sides of our lobster roll". 

"Our #3 favorite with customers is our combo Lobster and large Crabs Legs plate. We offer an awesome Gluten free menu.  We have a Veggie Patch menu for those who prefer a veggie alternative over traditional menu items. We open at 11 am starting with lunch, and run until 9 pm from May 23 to October 20th". 

"Customers know that we all love what we do, and they say it shows," she says. "We love working with people, we love cooking for them, and we love making money serving our guests. We are happy doing all three as a business at the same time". 

Donna says that she also loves doing business with her suppliers with the help of UNIPCO's staff.  

"We are located a long way from anywhere, situated here between two mountains. If we have a problem with a supplier's price or delivery, I can call the UNIPCO office, and they take care of it for me".

" I am a staunch UNIPCO member.  I often say about being a member of UNIPCO that united we stand, divided we fall". 

The day that I got the power of UNIPCO behind me as a member was a wonderful day for me", says Donna. 

Trip Advisor: The Rusty Anchor – #1 of 3 Restaurants in Pleasant Bay

National Geographic Magazine: Nova Scotia Road Trip May-June 2005

Excerpt:  Pleasant Bay

Wheel over for lunch at the Rusty Anchor restaurant in Pleasant Bay (23197 Cabot Trail Rd.; tel. 1 902 224 1313) for some of the best lobster rolls on the Cabot Trail—pure lump lobster meat with just a little butter (no celery or salad dressing, thank you) served on a toasted roll. If you ask where the fresh oysters come from, restaurant co-owner Donna Timmons will tell you, "Twenty minutes down the road." On a warm day, enjoy your food out on the terrace, with its killer ocean views. While you are in the area, check out the Whale Interpretive Centre (224-1411; 104 Harbour Rd.; fee) for insight into the lives of these fascinating sea creatures.


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