Manon Meloche

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Interview by Derrick Scott and Mathieu Manning
Images © Vesta’s Photography

AS SOMETIMES HAPPENS, MANON MELOCHE’S ENTREPRENEURIAL ADVENTURE BEGAN WITH AN INVITATION OUT OF THE BLUE FROM HER DAUGHTER, WHO AT THE TIME WAS WORKING AT MAIN STREET PIZZA: “MOM, WE HAVE TO BUY MAIN STREET PIZZA!” THIS WAS ALL IT TOOK TO GET HER TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT HER PROFESSIONAL FUTURE. SHE CONFIDES, “I HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO WORK FOR MYSELF. THAT MOMENT GOT THE WHEELS IN MOTION.”

Despite being 50 years old, Manon felt the impulse so strongly that she had to give it serious consideration. “Let’s just say the numbers didn’t scare me.” With her experience in accounting, Manon acknowledges that she had an advantage and a good grasp of financial statements. “So, I said, let’s do it! Let’s buy Main Street Pizza.” And with that, it was as good as done: “It took two weeks.” That was how quickly Manon’s determination and courage propelled her into her next professional challenge.

Hands-on approach

“Accounting skills definitely don’t help you make pizza.” There is clearly a fundamental difference between managing numbers and providing a food service: “The heart of the business is what we serve to customers in fast food, which is quite different from dealing with numbers.” She admits that her transition to managing a local pizzeria was a challenge: “During the first week in business, it was my daughter, let’s say, who got us organized. She took the reins.” Her daughter’s involvement, only 22 years of age at the time the business was taken over, filled Manon with inspiration and admiration: “She was young.” This new responsibility represented a challenge for the young woman, but also an opportunity for professional growth.

Unfortunately, as a new owner, Manon did not benefit from a transition period or a great deal of support from the previous owner. Consequently, she and her team had to adapt quickly. Manon was able to cope by relying on her experience and following the previous owner’s instructions: “Fortunately, she had shown me how to do certain things, such as what to order and prepare for our first Friday rush.

A family affair

She has now owned the business for five years. “My daughter is still here with me. She’s my main manager.” Moreover, other family members also come to help occasionally, emphasizing the family aspect of the business: “My other daughter, who lives in Hull where she works full-time, comes to help us on weekends. I also have sisters and nephews who come to help me from time to time.” Manon is convinced that their commitment strengthens family ties: “It certainly brings a family together. Many people say it’s difficult to work with family, but in my case, I can say it’s going well.”

Manon emphasizes that managing the pizzeria requires constant involvement, highlighting the workload she personally assumes: “There are days when I find it very demanding. It’s seven days a week, and since I handle the accounting, I leave purchasing and marketing to the kids.” Additionally, she insists on the importance of preparation in the restaurant industry, especially dough preparation: “We prepare the dough ourselves, which represents a significant part of the work.”

“I have to say that pizza is a passion.” She confirms that this passion has developed over time, something she hadn’t initially anticipated it. Manon emphasizes: “I love the clientele, I love our customers, they are so loyal and faithful.”

Challenges and successes

“Inflation is a big problem. We can’t raise our prices every week.” She highlights the difficulty of adjusting prices while maintaining customer loyalty. Despite these challenges, Manon is firm in her determination to sustain her business by offering attractive specials while preserving profitability: “We work hard and try to offer specials to attract people.” She also acknowledges the complexity of managing the clientele, which can vary from week to week: “There are weeks when business exceeds our expectations. Then there are others, like this week, when it’s quiet. It’s difficult to predict how many employees we need on any given day. That makes it hard to plan.”

“Another challenge is finding good employees,” she explains. She emphasizes the importance of finding employees who fit into the family dynamic of the business. Recognizing that this can be intimidating for some, she insists that most employees appreciate this atmosphere: “Most employees love it because we make them part of the family.” Manon expresses her current satisfaction with her team: “I have a very good team, including a young girl I hired earlier this week. At this point, I would be more inclined to call it a success than a challenge.”

Pizzaville

“Many joke that in Clarence-Rockland, there are more pizzerias than people.” She acknowledges the situation jokingly: “Yes, well, we’ve been here a long time. The name Main Street Pizza has been around for about eight or nine years. But there were two other pizzerias in this location before us.” Faced with the number of pizzerias, she sees it as a very positive challenge: “It’s a good challenge. We always try to outdo ourselves while keeping our unique touch. It’s family-oriented. Our recipes are different. We are unique.”

A passion – seven days a week

Manon reflects on her journey and her current commitment to her business. She admits that her initial expectations were modest: “I wouldn’t even have thought that I would do this for five years, because I thought it was temporary. I thought I would retire.” However, she acknowledges that her commitment now exceeds her predictions: “Right now, I don’t even see the day when I’ll stop. Retirement is gone. We’ll see.” She emphasizes that her work goes beyond full-time: “As long as I’m fit and able to get up in the morning to go make pizza, I’ll be there. It’s certainly not a part-time job. In fact it’s even more than full-time. It’s seven days a week. It’s not even a job. It’s a passion. As long as I have the passion, I’ll be there.”

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