Heard on the Street October
Sam and Zora Popadic have prepared and served their last scrumptious dishes of goulash, dumplings and chicken paprikash at the Blue Danube, 1235 Ottawa Street in Windsor. Thirty seven years after purchasing the Hungarian restaurant and lounge in 1979, the workhorse couple retired in early September. The business had been listed for sale with real estate agents, when a man from Toronto, formerly from Dubai, walked in off the street, announced that he had seen the listing on Kijiji, and asked Zora to show him the place, including a pair of two bedroom apartment units upstairs. He left and came back with “an offer we couldn’t refuse,” smiles Zora.
The new landlord, who has two partners, has rented out the two lofts, including one two bedroom unit occupied by the Popadics for all 42 years, while the second unit remained vacant. The new owner has no immediate plans for the restaurant and lounge space. The Popadics, who met at W.D. Lowe night school, learning English, raised two children, Slavica and Steven, in the apartment. The siblings have pitched in at the restaurant over the years. “I ran the show out front and Sam (trained as a Chef in Hungary before immigrating to Canada) ran the show in the kitchen,” says Zora, a native of Macedonia. They survived the volatile restaurant business through mule-like determination and an adept ability to change with the times. “We re-modelled every three or four years through a designer out of Hungary,” says Zora, noting that it was critical to retain decorations reminding customers of Eastern Europe. Ironically, the German speciality wiener schnitzel was one of the favourite dishes. Showing their flexibility, the Popadics also added vegan dishes to the traditional rib-sticking menu, and son Steven took care of social media updates. Other than working 12 hour days six days a week, servicing walk-in customers, funeral, wedding, anniversary, baptism, and birthday parties,
Zora believes their secret to success was keeping loyal customers coming back. “We want to thank all of our customers, suppliers and employees,” states Zora. “We didn’t make a lot of money, but we made a lot of friends.” The Popadics have purchased a home in South Windsor and plan on spending their time babysitting five grandchildren and travelling. Meanwhile, there are no known restaurants specializing in Eastern European cuisine left in the city.
She’s BACK! Joan Charette has rejoined the Walkerville Business Improvement Association (WBIA) as Events Coordinator, some 20 months after stepping down as WBIA coordinator. “Some members (of the BIA) asked me to come back just as Events Co-ordinator,” says Charette, who held the position of coordinator of the BIA for 16 years. She accepted the scaled down duties, she says, “because putting on events was my favourite part of the job and I feel there is unfinished business there.”
Charette has a lot of ideas for enhancing existing events such as the “Holiday Walk” in November and the “Art Walk” in July, as well as launching new events. Other coordinator duties, such as promotion, advertising, website management and taking minutes at meetings will be handled by various BIA members. “The board has strong members, the committees are well organized and that helps a lot,” she indicates.