Sims: Codfather’s daughter navigates a fish and chips shop until she turns 50 despite COVID

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Jacqueline Arp recently brought an enthusiastic customer into her restaurant with her two-year-old daughter in her arms.

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“This is the third generation of Kipps Lane Fish and Chips lovers,” he proudly announced before placing an order which included his daughter’s first taste of a London tradition.

It was another small step in the long history of the destination fish and chip shop in a northeast London square, which celebrated 50 years in business this month. And in times of a pandemic, when so many restaurants limped or simply didn’t survive, a half-century anniversary is worth celebrating.

With the help of her manager, Adam Gillis, and the rest of his team, Arp, 55, managed to make Kipps Lane Fish and Chips thrive thanks to the lessons she learned from her father and restaurant founder John – which was dubbed “the Codfather” by Free Press food editors in the 1980s and declared to have the best fish and chips in town.

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“It’s a labor of love, right?” said Arp, who took over the restaurant after his father died in 2010.

The catering business is in addition to her day job as a microbiologist at Western University, where she worked in vaccine development and now does transplant research. These science skills would come in handy once we entered the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes.

Ruth and John Arp in their restaurant, Kipps Lane Fish and Chips, in this photo from the LFP archives from December 2, 1982.
Ruth and John Arp in their restaurant, Kipps Lane Fish and Chips, in this photo from the LFP archives from December 2, 1982.

But more on that later. First, a little history of fish and chips.

John Arp was a Dutch immigrant who came to Canada at the age of 40 and opened the restaurant in February 1972 at the age of 45. His restaurant’s reputation grew despite being tucked away in a neighborhood that had a bad reputation.

He never complained about going to work and Jacqueline Arp said she had clients who had been with them for almost 50 years in business. One of them first ordered fish in November 1972 and has been coming back once a week ever since.

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John has become an essential part of the community. Jacqueline has oceans of stories about her kindness to her neighbors and local children. She had her career during the week, but helped in the restaurant on Fridays, their busiest night.

“He was such a strong man, such a strong and very caring man. It was so wonderful to work alongside him and to continue like this,” Jacqueline said.

When John’s health began to fail, Jacqueline wondered what the place meant to the neighborhood. “I thought, I can’t stop it. It must continue. »

And the neighborhood paid her back. “I know it sounds a little strange, but there’s a really symbiotic relationship that we have, a mutual respect for each other,” Arp said. She said she never considered moving the business and did not feel unsafe.

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The loyal clientele extends well beyond the borders of Kipps Lane.

But the pandemic has brought uncharted waters.

“Because of my knowledge, my background, I tried to really protect us as staff,” Arp said.

The few tables in the space were removed and “we were very careful,” she said. The restaurant did not close during the crisis and maintained a strong take-out service.

“And knock on wood, none of us have ever been sick, even though we’ve dealt with the public the whole time,” she said. “So it’s been phenomenal.”

Arp said they were also committed to respecting their customers because, like her father, she sees the restaurant as “a service” and “just giving something, a little bit of joy to people”.

Some things have changed. The menu expanded somewhat — chicken was added, for example — and Arp learned how to give the restaurant a healthy social media presence and hired delivery services.

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Other food companies have not been so lucky. Restaurants Canada has estimated that 50,000 jobs and at least $20 billion in revenue have been lost by the industry in Ontario during the pandemic.

Arp often wondered if, if it had closed temporarily, it might have reopened. But she said her customers, both loyal and new Canadians in the neighborhood, and her staff are her strength.

And she feels her father’s presence in the cozy space every day. When she took over the business, she ended up painting it blue and white, her father’s favorite color combination.

“My dad, he was so supportive of me going to school and I will always be indebted to him because he always believed that I could do anything. So I kind of said, OK, I’ll try .

A legacy business, through good times and bad, brings half a century of rewards.

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