The reasons why a particular establishment is successful are rarely easy to define in one way or another. There has to be something special though. The George Wellington Esquire Club, known as The Esquire Club is just such a place. What was once a Gentlemen’s only Club, built without windows, and with a pay phone, is, in 2016, a true blue community enterprise for the 19-year-old and over crowd.
The Esquire Club is where charity and good works, meets ‘porketta bingo’ and a cold barley. The Esquire Club is in fact, an incorporated non-profit organization. In 1947, the Esquire opened on Gore St., and in 1948, became a registered non-profit. The Esquire moved to its current location on Second Line West, 65 years ago.
Dominica Braido is one of four partners, which includes her husband Boomer, and friends Matt Patreau, and Rob Wilson. The group purchased the George Wellington Esquire Club in 2007. Now entering their 10th year as owners, this foursome has been building a steady business, carrying forward the legacy, including by Carol Wierzbicki (former owner) that brings them into 2016. The Esquire Club has been supporting community in very big ways. To the tune of over $200,000 (and counting) big ways. Money raised in the last ten years through the Nevada Ticket sales alone, has been over $200,000. The George Wellington Esquire Club mandate is to help community partners, especially where children’s focus is complimented. The Esquire Club has further contributed over $160,000 to kids hockey leagues and soccer teams, and $45,000 to softball team sponsorships.
Dominica spent 15 years as a youth worker at St. Mary’s High School (HSCDSB), and has a genuine understanding of the importance of supporting young people in our community. “We’ve got to take care of our kids,” she said. “Charities that support children is our focus. Most of the patrons here have membership cards, which are purchased for $5.00, but a membership card is not required to come here. Everyone is welcome.” An annual meeting is held each year with the Board of Directors of the George Wellington Esquire Club, and its members.
An idea which sprang from a club in Sudbury, Ontario that Dominica and her husband were visiting, about four years ago, ‘The Beef & Bird’, started percolating. They brought the idea to the gang at The Esquire Club and Porketta Bingo was born.
In the last four years, ‘Porketta Saturdays’ is so popular, that if you aren’t there by 2 pm (or so), there may not be a seat available. “Close to $40,000 has been raised from our Saturday Porkettas alone since we started them four years ago,” shared Dominica.
Saturday Porkettas are run in much the same way a B.I.N.G.O. is run. Individuals purchase a Porketta Card, and when someone has an eventual match, they shout ‘PORKETTA’, not BINGO. Shouting BINGO is not advised. “A person buys a card for $12.00, which gets you 42 chances to win. The dealer is Boomer Braido, and if you make the proper three matches, you win a pound of cooked porketta & bread for your table. There are 42 games played on a Saturday afternoon. And if a person doesn’t like their card, they can switch it out for a different one.
“My husband and I spice the porketta, which is slow cooked starting around 6 am. We cook 50 lbs. of pork every Saturday.”
The license (to run porketta bingo) runs from October to the last Saturday in April.” That’s 25 Saturdays times 50 lbs. of pork.
“We have one group of young people (over the age of 19 years), who haven’t missed a Saturday in four years. It’s a lot of work, a lot of fun, and at the end of the day, when we present the money to our charities, it is all worth it,” said Dominica.
Many of the customers who frequent The Esquire have been going there for a long time, which is one of those special qualities that money can’t buy: Customer loyalty. After meeting with Dominica Braido, it’s easy to see why people would want to make The Esquire part of their stomping grounds. One of the staff members, Jackie, has been working at the Esquire for 27 years, and some of the staff moved to the Esquire with Dominica and Boomer when they sold a former business.
Dominica runs the day to day business operations as the manager, Rob Wilson helps in the kitchen with homemade burgers, homemade sauce and meatballs, Matt Patreau takes an active role in the P.R. piece, and Boomer takes on much of the work associated with running the poker leagues, pool leagues and dart leagues.
“Money we have raised has gone to A.R.C.H., Big Brothers / Big Sisters, Vincent’s Place, The James St. Soup Kitchen & Community Centre, (SAH) The Sault Area Hospital Foundation, and The Cancer Clinic, Mental and Health Addictions (SAH), Tugboats, Christy’s Light Foundation, The Autism Society, Threads of Life, Lung Association, Diabetes Association and more.”
In 2014, and 2015, The Esquire Club helped Make A Wish Foundation, raising 10,000 for each of three local children. “One wish was to go to Disneyland and one was to meet members of The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Team, and another wish was for a shopping spree with her mom.” said Dominica.
The SAH and A.R.C.H have celebrated The Esquire Club with plaques displayed prominently on their respective Walls of Donation.
Live local bands perform on Friday and Saturday nights. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, with a diverse age group.
Dart leagues, Pool leagues, Bocce leagues (summertime) and other activities that encourage good sportsmanship take place weekly at the Esquire Club.
A large membership roll is maintained in a binder, which Dominica showed saultonline. A second binder will soon be needed as the $5.00 memberships continue to grow.
“We are a service club in the same way that the Elks Hall, The Fraternal Order of Eagles, The Moose Lodge and Royal Canadian Legion are service clubs. Our non-profit status allows us to share events and resources with local charities and community partners.”
The Esquire has a fully stocked bar, and even started carrying locally brewed draft beer by the Northern Superior Brewing Company. Regulars to the Esquire Club were relaxing along the hand crafted oak bar, on comfy bar stools the afternoon sautonline stopped by. A busy kitchen is open Monday-Friday.
“Some of the gentlemen here today, are among the first patrons to come here all of those years ago when the Esquire moved to this location 65 years ago. One of the fellas here today, is the carpenter that built the oak bar.”
“We get the most pleasure from giving back to community. When we first took it over 10 years ago, our common vision was to support children in the north. We have to take care of each other. We northerners have to stick together,” shared Dominica.
True that. The Esquire Club is a place where northerners can find comfort in a welcoming space, a nice high bar stool with a back, or grab a table with friends. A place where ‘everybody just might know your name’. Where membership has its privileges, for community. Cheers!