A restaurant in Killarney is taking steps to make better use of some of the building’s square footage.

Owner Rick Pauls opened the Blarney Stone Pub and Restaurant in March of 2013 and was doing okay until the pandemic. Now Pauls like many other restaurant owners is looking for ways to bolster the bottom line.

“We’re actually converting the old dining room into a retail market that will be called The Blarney Market. We’ll be selling food and kitchen wares because COVID has absolutely devastated our industry and we have to find a way to survive.”

The market will handle products like gluten free items and things aimed at the specialty market. A lot of the items are made in Canada and are things you wouldn’t find in your local grocery store.

“We will have some mainline food items like produce when we are fully opened. We hope to open on a limited capacity by mid November. Our shelving is coming from Georgia. When people come in it’s going to look like a 1930’s market like an old style grocery store.”

The Blarney Market will specialize in take out and gift baskets and things for funerals if people are looking to send things in condolence they’ll make up special packages.

Rick Pauls says it’s about sticking around and being able to keep the doors open.

“There’s a lot of restaurants out there right now scrambling and they are trying to figure out what to do. Home meal replacements are becoming more prevalent now and people aren’t going out like they used to and we are having trouble finding staff. To reinvent ourselves it’s going to be a bit of trial and error but we hope it works and we can survive.”

The new market place will cover 1,400 square feet but the Blarney Stone’s banquet room, which will remain a banquet room for now, has another 1,100 square feet that could be used for market space if needed.

The lounge area is now the main restaurant and new seating is coming in the middle of November and by December the lounge will have a different look. “We’ll be able to seat up to 92 people and it will still be one of the largest restaurants in Southwestern Manitoba. But it’s definitely going to be different from what it was” said Rick Pauls.

The future of the restaurant industry in rural areas looks less than ideal. Rick Pauls says to start up a restaurant is quite costly and with eating habits changing he doesn’t think anyone will want to jump into the business. Another factor is rising food costs and the impact that has on menu items.

“People may start coming back but the rising food costs will create a price threshold where people can’t afford to eat out as much as they once used to either.”