“We’re adults, eh? Let’s enjoy life,” laughed Roger Orr, proprietor of Chisasibi’s Retro Daze Café, opening soon at 10 Fort George Road.
Retro Daze is a café in name, but it’s a lot harder to describe than that. It’s sort of a café, and will soon be hosting karaoke and open-mic nights. It’s sort of a convenience store that will stock basic emergency needs like bacon, coffee and toilet paper. It’s sort of sports lounge, complete with 10 TVs and a pool table. It’s sort of a cigar-lounge, with a VIP smoking room. It’s sort of a restaurant. It’s a lot of things at once, and that’s exactly the idea – Orr modeled it on a similar business he ran in Nemaska called the 4-in-1.
“We used to have full houses all the time when we had our events,” Orr recalled of the 4-in-1. “But I was practically babysitting children and having to deal with youth issues. Plus staff wasn’t showing up. It was too much: I was killing myself making money just to pay for my own funeral. So I designed this place as adults-only so I don’t have to deal with little children running around, or the issues with young teens. I want to be able to enjoy what I’m doing.”
Retro Daze, he said, is like a drop-in centre, except not for youths – a community place where people can go to relax.
“They’ve got the arena and the restaurant, but they don’t have a place like this where they can socialize and enjoy some time to themselves as adults,” he said. “I have to be competitive so I can get customers and get stable, but I don’t want to put any competitors out of business. I want to support other businesses rather than work against them. There’s nowhere like this – I’ve got a niche here.”
For months, Orr has been working on his building and working on his supplies: he’s worked especially hard to salvage used goods, like the industrial toaster he was fixing while he talked, and refurbish those that were in poor condition, like the pool table with its new felt surface.
“I couldn’t afford any lounge chairs, so I went to a scrapyard in the middle of winter in a snowstorm,” he said. “I dug out some Caravans and pulled out the seats and fixed them up. I’m using those inside the smoking lounge: they’re extremely comfortable.”
The point of the place is to make it a community fixture, where adults can enjoy themselves. But those who know Orr as a speaker who has talked widely about overcoming addiction can also expect that it is a recovery tool as well.
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice cigar after a good day, because it’s not mind- or mood-altering in a way that gets you messed up,” he said. “It’s about giving people the freedom of a place to go, and also showing them they can have a good time without alcohol or drugs. And they don’t need to go into religion either – they can come to a place and indulge in adult things and still have a good time without feeling bad about themselves. Sometimes people turn to religion, and now they can listen to rock and roll.”
So Retro Daze will function as an alternative to church socializing, but – aside from the wall decorated with rock records – offer many of the same benefits of company and relaxation. And, Orr adds, “maybe some poker or gossip or whatever.” Plus, in the summer, he’ll have a TV outside for people to watch UFC events.
Orr and his “sidekick” Julian House expect to have Retro Daze up and running no later than November 4. Not long after, he’s going to begin cooking specialty-menu suppers, including chicken wings and spaghetti nights.
“Construction’s finished,” he said. “The floor’s polished, the walls and ceilings are washed. Everything’s done: I just have to lay things out, that’s it.”