My amazing baby!
Autumn had just arrived, encumbering customers with heavier clothing, who now entered the diner looking for a wall hook or rack to hang their coats. We had opened the doors to our first small establishment at the end of May and no one had stopped to think that summer itself might stop. June, July, August and September were hot in the restaurant. Hotter than the inside of the old Garland stove in which I had to cook baked beans for hours. We had begged the owner several times to allow us to install an air conditioner in the window at our own expense, but to no avail.
- “I’ve worked in this restaurant for a long time,” chanted the owner, “I never had to take apart a window.”
- “But please sir,” I replied, “we promise not to make a mess.”
Each time he’d toss back, “If you’re not happy, I’ll just take the restaurant back,” which landed like a blow.
The poor man had worked from morning to night for 30 years before he developed a bad cough and was persuaded by his daughter and wife to finally sell the business. A few months of rest, however, he was back on his feet, circling our tiny restaurant like a lion who was ready to pounce on a gazelle.
Later I learned from his own daughter’s mouth that he bitterly regretted selling his livelihood.
- “You see, he has always earned his bread, Mme Cora,” she confided. “The building is paid for; we collect four rents and I’d much rather attend university than work myself sick in a diner.”
So we became used to the infernal heat and were even more attentive to our customers, who had to wipe away the sweat from their faces ten times before enjoying their breakfasts. We didn’t need many coffee warmers, but we did purchase carafes that we filled with cold water and placed on the tables. The pegs we punctured the walls with were removed as soon as the snow began to melt.
One October morning in 1987, I had to slip on a wool top under my cook’s jacket to keep me from shivering as I emptied my bowl of batter into 3 big empty jars lined up on the counter.
The air was chilly when a customer called Mike came in wearing a light brown windbreaker of the same material as his Esso gas station overalls.
Sitting down at the counter, like he did each morning around 10 a.m., Mike greeted me, lowering his eyelids slightly like a bashful admirer.
- “Mme Cora, you are definitely going to need some business cards!” he told me firmly.
- “I’m not a lawyer, dear Mike, or a doctor, or anyone important enough to require a business card.”
And the affable gas attendant would try to convince me in this way each morning while drinking his coffee.
- “No, Mike, business cards are for very important people who do big business.”
- “But Cora, you’re important to me,” he insisted. “And it won’t cost you anything because four evenings a week I work at print shop owned by a Lebanese fellow who owes me a small favour.”
- “Uh-uh, Mike,” I answered.
- “Yes, Cora, I’ll bring you some blank cards tomorrow and you can practise drawing on them.”
- “Mike, I’ve never done anything like that before.”
- “What about these signs all over the walls?” insisted the gas attendant, “didn’t you do them?”
- “Yes, but…they aren’t business cards…”
The next day, Mike arrived with some 50 small blank cards and a lovely pencil with the word “Esso” marked on it.
- “If you make a mistake, just erase it,” the gas attendant urged.
And the following day, to make Mike happy, I took the Esso pencil and I wrote CHEZ CORA RESTAURANT in big letters in the centre of a card.
- “You see, it’s easy, now write the address underneath.”
I wrote down “605 Côte-Vertu Road” in small letters, plus a discreet “Homemade cooking” to finish.
- “That’s not enough,” insisted Mike. “You need to have a logo like the big M of McDO, the old KFC photo or Shell’s yellow seashell. Draw a chicken, a crêpe plate or a nice cup of hot coffee. I don’t know, something like that.”
And then suddenly – don’t ask me how – I picked up the pencil again and drew in the left corner of the card a beautiful face, round like the sun. I added a few rays of light, eyelids happily closed halfway and a big smile.
Proud of my drawing, I asked Mike to bring me a yellow pencil the next day so I could give my sun some colour.
- “Don’t worry, Cora. The printer is very nice. He’s going to help me finish your card, and in a few days, you’re gonna be blown away.”
And I am still to this day – amazed and dumbfounded thinking that my own hand drew such an illustrious logo. A logo that so perfectly captures my heart’s desire to constantly delight our customers.
- “This sun has a kingly look to it,” exclaimed Mike as he handed me the attractively finished business card.
- “Hmm,” I answered, “this sun will be the king of my heart.”
With your lovely, bright yellow, your plump, warm face, your knowing eyelids and your great, big happy smile, it’s clear you knew, my dear Sun, what was in store for us. You knew that you would become a brand that would shine far and wide, and that I, your humble mom, would serve you unfailingly until I could no longer.
Psst: Bringing this logo into the world was akin to bringing my own life into this world.
(To be continued…)
And many thanks, dearest Mike, for helping me create such a wonderful logo for our brand.