RIPLEY - Some people said the town of Ripley was just too small to support a restaurant, but Veronika and David Cook have defied the odds with the success of the FIG Studio Kitchen, also a success story for the municipality of Huron-Kinloss.
The Cooks are pushing boundaries at the FIG Studio Kitchen in Ripley.
When Veronika and David opened their dream enterprise – The Food is Great (FIG) Studio Kitchen - in downtown Ripley this summer, they made a conscious decision to challenge.
They challenged themselves by taking on such a bold business plan.
They challenged the bankers who took a long time to be convinced that an upscale restaurant – or any restaurant at all – could make it in a town of 600 people with only one major intersection.
And they quite intentionally decided to challenge the taste buds of their friends and neighbours in Ripley with an unconventional menu featuring such items as Isle of Lewis Style Crab Cakes, Bison Sliders and Farlot Farm Lamb Meatballs.
But the gamble has clearly paid off. The 2,300-square foot studio kitchen restaurant on 87 Huron St., in downtown Ripley (well, pretty much all of Ripley is downtown Ripley) has been hopping since it opened with little fanfare or notice in September.
“The really big thing was not to conform to what people might expect in Ripley but instead to make them conform to something different, to find something new in something local,’’ Veronika said during a lull after the lunch rush today.
“We didn’t want to be just that diner in a small town.”
“For us, the question was how we can make it healthy, fresh and local,’’ David added.
Veronika and David responded to a promotion launched in late 2017 by the municipality of Huron-Kinloss, offering six month’s free rent on a Ripley location for a new enterprise. Competitors had to submit a business plan to start off with, then six finalists were invited to go further, through a series of mentorship courses and meetings with Bruce County’s
“Business to Bruce” program. Veronika and David’s pitch for the “FIG” emerged the winner.
A restaurant that could just as easily be found in any neighbourhood in the big city is now a feature of the landscape in Ripley, a success story for a local municipal initiative to attract new businesses. Right now they open at 7 a.m. for breakfast and serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They have a full liquor license as well, but for now, still aren’t open in the evening hours. They hope to extend their hours through time.
After launching with little fanfare or advertising, even they have been surprised by the local response.
“Even today I was looking at the place thinking, how can this many people be in here for lunch on a Tuesday,’’ David said. Now they’re gearing up for the holiday season rush of corporate events and special meals. And the catering business they operate is also picking up.
David is a Ripley native. He and Veronika, who is originally from Fort Erie, met when they were both studying Culinary Management at Georgian College, in Barrie. They made their home in Ripley in 1990. Over the years, Dave worked at the Bruce Inn and Gilley’s in Kincardine as well as Madison's before launching FIG.
And now they’ve living the dream, running their own business just a short walk from their home in Ripley, serving a dedicated local clientele but also customers from far and wide.
“You know you’re doing something right when people keep coming back, and bring their friends,” Veronika said.