Warren Mark, Owner of The Oriental Restaurant.

Many people believe that opening a restaurant is as simple as putting on an apron and heading into the kitchen, but any experienced restaurant owner will tell you differently. There are many challenges, but ultimately it involves many people working together towards a common objective. For the Oriental Restaurant, it is to provide consistent quality Chinese food.

The restaurant opened in 1961 at 104 Market Street, right beside the Bell Canada building. It was just a small restaurant with a coffee counter and a few booths at the time. Chinese food was still relatively new to a lot of residents of Brantford, so the restaurant also served Canadian cuisine to cater to some of the diners that may be apprehensive about trying new foods. As the business grew, another dining room was added to provide more seating.

In 1977, the building lease was about to end, and the partners of the business had to decide whether to continue with the business or explore other opportunities. Peter Mark along with his wife Margaret took the chance to continue with the business and moved the restaurant to its present location at 162 Market Street. Today, both their sons Warren and Wayne assist with the daily operations.

To the Mark family, the downtown provides a centralized location and creates an avenue to have a very diverse customer base. “We love to see people from all different backgrounds, whether they are long-time residents of Brantford and surrounding areas, newly moved families from other locations, students, visitors or tourists. The favourite part of our day is when people just say “hi” and if time permits, a friendly little chat. It is a simple thing, but it keeps a connection and for the most part, people are really sincere. You get to know a little bit about them.”

As a child, Warren remembers the many independent “mom and pop shops” that contributed to a vibrant downtown many years ago. It is this form of entrepreneurship that adds a distinctive character to any city center.

This success story shows how a combination of unbridled passion, hard work, family and some good fortune can create a business that lasts decades and is a staple to the community.